Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Prose Poem for my "Writing the City" Class

I recently took a writing class at the Richard Hugo House called "Writing the City" where we each produced a prose poem (journalism + poetry + prose).  This is mine, on a house in my neighborhood.  Perhaps light on the poetry, but I still like it.  The class was great and I recommend both the specific one and the Richard Hugo House in general.

We leave the bus together, my neighbor and I, making small talk.  I’ve gotten to know her over several similar mornings and she seems like a real nice lady.  We walk past some five houses and I veer off down my driveway.

“Goodbye, I’ll see you tomorrow!” I say.

“Oh you live here,” she replies.  Her voice is relieved.  “I thought you lived there. “  She points three houses down to another duplex. 

“No, no, I don’t live there!” I say with a too loud laugh.  Down the street another nice man with a pair of shih tzus glances over before continuing his walk. 

There is a house that people are relived to find out that you don’t live in.  At first it is dull but unremarkable, then it wilts.  Tan paint curls around chipped bricks and multiple defunct satellite dishes screwed in around the eaves.  There are too many things on the lawn – half-living plants in cheap plastic cups, fake stone wells, numerous flags of indeterminate symbolism.  There are too many cars, most of which seem unable to have arrived by the power of their own motors – windowless, spray painted, covered with tarps. There are too many silences until other neighbors lift the dirty veil and point out the mysteries.

She confides more about the house.  “Last year someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the front window and it nearly burned down!  It stayed that way for a long time before the owner rebuilt it.  If you call that rebuilt.  People come and go all the time.”

In sea of rentals, such turnover must indeed be high.  I begin to notice, too.  I begin to see the groups who seem disconnected.  Five young punks pacing.  Three sagging ladies smoking while half-assedly weeding.  An older man tinkering.  Now they are strange!

Similar relief repeatedly manifests.  “You can drop me off at my house.  It’s over here.”  “Oh, good – at first I thought we were going to say there!” 

Why do you persist, house?  This neighborhood is so nice!  Why does no one sell you to get rich, or take care of you like we deserve?  Wouldn’t we all be happy if you, too, were lovely?

When the time comes, I vote for the improvements to the city. The choices seem inclusive - a socialist, parks funding, infrastructure improvement, a livable minimum wage, marriage equality, legalized weed.  They mostly pass – see how we are a progressive model?  Everyone is welcome to help tow the line, to draw us closer to an ideal, so please remember to do your part, house.

Mornings, I walk my dog, going from there towards here.  An old dreadlocked white man in a tie-dye tee shirt works in its lawn area from time to time.  “How are you doing?” he always asks.

“Good.  And you?” I say.

He looks over both shoulders and leans towards me with a grin that at first made me nervous but now that I know him seems innocent.  There is never anyone around, but he does it anyway, laughing.  “Don’t tell anyone else, but I’m doing fantastic!”