First the brass lock punched out
and glinting on the stoop, a floral
bedsheet tacked in the window,
dim shapes moving inside. Then mail
in the mailbox. Freshly cut grass.
My other neighbor blasts Rush
Limbaugh reruns and loves
to corner me out front to explain
about mechanical pigeon spies,
China seeding clouds with acid rain.
World’s going to shit, he says,
all around me. What about the feds
tapping our calls, I say, trying to be
agreeable. Bet your ass, he says.
They’re dying to catch you slipping.
I’m broke, but I start leaving
at the curb whatever I can spare:
a bookshelf and two plastic lawn chairs,
a potted fig. I look out later
and they’re gone; through the wall,
the scuff of a chair leg, laughter.
My brother comes to visit
and sleeps on the kitchen floor.
What’s up with your neighbors, he says.
We put out a cut-glass punch bowl,
a watercolor map of the state
with the proportions all wrong.
In August, two cops in dress shirts
and bulletproof vests knock
on my door and ask if I’ve seen
any movements. Leave me their card.
My other neighbor juts his chin:
You seen them next door?
Heard they robbed some old lady.
Who said that, I say. He shrugs.
The heat swells and breaks.
An election happens. I sell my car
and sit on my stoop, chain-reading
paperbacks, trying to lose
as much time as possible.
Mom calls. Are you alone, she says.
It’s about your dad. A hatchback
clatters by, dragging its muffler.
In the window next door, my fig
presses its leaves to the glass.
EDGAR KUNZ is the author of Fixer (Ecco, 2023) and Tap Out (Ecco, 2019), a New York Times New & Noteworthy pick. He lives in Baltimore and teaches at Goucher College.