Naked Neighborhood

Thanks to those of you who've actually been reading these all month.  Now that April's over I'll be posting older poems every few days, so don't be strangers to this little part of the internet, ok? Ok. Cool.

This last poem for April, now on the first (or is it the second now? what time even is it?) of May, is about being naked and surrounded with neighborhood memories. 

 

Naked Neighborhood

Misty December evenings
are the best times to
fly in the buff
radiating steam and
puffing like a fleshy train
bound for some dewy suburban pasture

I found myself almost greeting
the day’s second hour
hounds round my knees
staring past my fence
and into my newly-wed
neighbor’s yard
wondering if they’d left their lights on
to ward off intruders
scant and timid though they may be in this town
or if perhaps their newly
yellow house–
once a lovely grayed white
once smoke-filled and
carpeted with cigarette burned shag
burns that I always thought
were stationary insects
whenever I would stop
at the door of my
newly necromancible neighbor
to collect off-brand lollipops
on Hallowe’en–
was lit so that they
waking, walking
could see

I bet on the former
and removing first sweater
then shirt
then shoes
then socks
then pants
then underwear
leapt over the fence

The earth, soft still
from evening rain
came up through my marble toes
and I set out across
my neighbors’ drive
through their yard–
eyes ever on their windows–
to the far reaches of their plot
covered in a quickly regrowing ivy
behind their garage

I always hated mowing
that portion of the yard
when my neighbor was 40 years older
and bound to that home
banned from driving after
the day in 2010 when
she struck our dogwood
in her 1974 AMC Hornet;
I have, probably, mowed these
new neighbors’ yard more than they
ever will though probably not as
many times as will the Mexican men
they now employ

Safe behind their garage
heart pounding
I began bounding
to the next yard over
snapping twigs unstealthily
with my already numbing feet
cold and clumsy
with no fence to hop
no lights to speculate upon
and another shed to store myself behind
but that yard, though fifty feet
from my own for all my life, was
not one I was familiar with:
dirt like clay all around
and flagstones leading along
the perimeter
to the third fence
this time an intersection;
Four Corners here in suburbia
of four neighbors who almost
certainly know each other by fence
alone

Gingerly I stepped over
the chain links, careful
not to snag anything important
and slipped further from safety
catercorner to the yard previous
which, as I turned to reflect, I
realized was more familiar
than I had originally given it credit for
for at once I remembered
the trampoline
that stood just there
by the flagstones
before the garden
and on which I would jump
and jump and jump
until the day my trampoline-
owning friend fell between the
springs and split the skin of his
ankle wide, a bright red triangle
coming quickly after– 
a moment I remember as a
dream that then came to me
leaning naked on their fence

Not much further could I go as
I gazed ahead and saw
past the yard between two homes
the sidewalk
the grassy median
the street lit by sodium burning
its white-orange way through the night

Fueled by my own
naked flight that street
became my finish line
and towards it I crept, up
the shadow cast by a wide old oak
from the dim deck lights of the home
standing on the yard’s south
side, separated from
it’s neighbor by perhaps
thirty feet of wet grass
and dead garden
and with bare back soon against bark
I made eyes with a tall hedge leaning up against the
south-side house and stepped towards it
feet sinking deep into the muddy garden soil–
imagine the discovery of my size
ten bare footprints
the surprise
the mystery
the fear
who would forgo footwear in these times?
a madman surely!

Perhaps they'd be right

But no sooner than I had made my
mark in their garden, not ten feet
from the shade of the shrubbery
did a light come on, powerful and sudden!

Shit!

Shit shit shit!

All pretense of stealth ejected I dashed
skin now luminous
to the deeper shade of the oak;
a ghostly spectacle that must have been: 
a flash of white, ghoulish lanky limbs
disappearing in the shadows, oh
how my heart beat then
I could see it through my chest
pounding through veins all exposed
under the thin white paper of all my skin
now shaking with nerves and cold

After a moment I peered from the
shadows’ safety and with
a sigh realized that I had acted
like nothing more than
a lumbering raccoon
scampering from the motion-sensing
chameleon eyes of halogen bulbs
or a foal taking flight in surprise
leaving behind a tomato in the summer
soft and red and spattered with dirt kicked up
in the heavy rain of late evening

Understanding my true place
in the hierarchy of the suburban night
I continued my retreat
across the lawns of my neighbors
disheartened at falling short
of the finish line, but
better, I say, to fall short
than to become the neighbor
that the whole borough knows
runs through town naked