These days, longing taunts like a red-headed woodpecker gorging on beef fat—its head tipped back, its drunkenness, saying: This-is-as-close-as-you’ll-come. Across the street squats a green house with closed blinds, and to my left, a young man sponges his car in slow circles as his mother sits on their porch. We summer-wave, talk the weather. She reads, I weed. Time scratches forward, and the upstairs neighbor arrives, creaks up and down the stairs to smoke on the curb. His feet thump as if each knee falls with the force of grief—this is what I know: the groaning of floorboards from one room to the next, the hours of departures and arrivals. On my radio, the guest longs for a hurricane stubborn enough to knock out the power, so neighbors will open their windows, step outside, mingle on the street. I wash a dish, remember an old neighborhood where cops busted the crack house across the street every week. Growling, peeing, my dog would back into a corner while I watched behind blinds. That same year, when my neighbors caroled from house to house, I locked the door and turned out the lights. I can still hear their song when they stopped at the next neighbor’s house, how off tune, how rare and distant, how lovely.
Helena Mesa is the author of Horse Dance Underwater and a co-editor for Mentor & Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and she teaches at Albion College.