Tag Archives: neighbors

The Old Man and Other Bright and Beautiful Landscapes

Photograph by Jose Padua
I don’t remember if it was last week
or last year, or just some gray day
when I didn’t have the energy to climb
my way up a blue mountain when I
realized that the old man listening
to light music on the way to the store
to buy soft food that wouldn’t hurt
his aching teeth was me. That the stark
landscape of an evening sky hanging
over a slowly moving brown river as
dark birds flashed their wings before
disappearing into the lush mystery
of tall swaying trees was a memory
that came rushing to me from the quiet
solace of an early afternoon’s hour
of delicate half-sleep. Sometimes
I’d leave the city far behind me
whenever I marveled at the flat
air that seemed to hover like a deep
speaking voice on helium over
a freshly mowed and neatly trimmed
lawn. Sometimes I’d walk to the county line
like I was climbing the stairs to sweet heaven.
Last week one of my neighbors banged
on the window of a car driven into a
wall down our street until the glass broke
to reveal a man who’d been driving drunk
wearing nothing but his clean, white briefs.
I think chance is what takes you the farthest
on a long slow road under gloom of night
with the lights off in this damp place
people who aren’t from here call the middle
of nowhere. It’s where I grow old and wise
among both lilacs and weeds, lifting
my feet one at a time, dreaming of nothing
but these bright, bitter and beautiful things.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Elegy for the American Dream on a Warm Summer’s Day

Photograph by Jose Padua
Walking out for lunch
with my family
in my old city neighborhood
the woman coming our way
using a black umbrella
as a parasol on this warm sunny day
is the mother of Henry,
the kid who grew up on my street—
a dwarf just under four feet
who had good years
and bad years and
who when he was on the run
for going up Georgia Avenue one evening
and shooting a man to death ,
a man who may or may not
have said something about
his size and heritage,
was described in news alerts as
a “possible Hispanic adult midget,”
as if that was all that was
you needed to know about my neighbor’s life
here in the city.
And the woman with the black parasol,
her son in prison
for thirty-five years,
greets us warmly as she smiles
like a subtle rise from the wind,
and remembers me from the old days,
the kid whose house she’d walk by
on the way to the bus stop
or church or the corner store,
wherever it was you went in those days
when we lived near each other
in this beautiful city
and didn’t have far to go.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

The Sight of my Neighbor Limping

Photograph by Jose Padua
The sight of my neighbor limping to his front door
in the dim, late-evening light, walking from his truck,
down the driveway to the sidewalk, then toward the
front steps of his house, his bad arm nearly dragging
from his shoulder behind his back like some name
he can’t remember–an old friend from back in the day
when he lived closer to the city with plenty to do and
places to go–reminds me of how little I know of his story.
Just that his wife has a hard time staying sober long enough
so the cops don’t have to drag her away to jail. Just an idea
that when the liquor has left the blood that flows beneath
your skin, the cold, gray walls of a jail cell must look
like the hardest substance on Earth. Which is to say
that it’s so much easier for me to imagine being her
than being him, so much easier to think about things
done wrong than things lost. And he takes his good arm
and stretches it straight in front of him as he turns to pull
his front door shut in time to sit in front of the television
to watch the Sunday night game. His wife is coming home
again at the end of the month when we’ll be more than
halfway through this third quarter season’s rush toward
winter, which is when he’ll need to crank up the wood
stove, sending rough blue smoke from the chimney
toward the sky in an effort to reach a temperature
sufficient for him to feel the tips of all his fingers, make
the motions that make it easy to believe it’s easy being alive,
and that comfort is the warmth and stillness of sitting
near the heart of his hundred year old, small town house.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua. This poem was first published at Vox Populi.