Near the house that spills banjo music,
the one guarded by a porch stacked
with encyclopedias, ripped out car seats
and outmoded computer screens,
a smell like death stops me. A smell
of slow rot. Across the street, an old man
is mowing his lawn for the last time
before winter, but it isn’t the mix
of gasoline and cut grass I smell.
Searching the road for a mashed squirrel
or a drain seeping sewage onto the asphalt,
I find nothing. Nothing at the shotgun house
next door, where the former plot of sickly cabbage
has been uprooted and the soil turned over.
As church bells begin to call out the hour,
competing with the mower’s whine, a man–
tattooed face and knit cap worn in all weather–
appears on the porch, wringing the neck of a Miller Lite
in the young morning. I pretend to watch
a stray cat lick a length of calico fur along its spine,
envying the man his public display of freedom, of pain.
A flurry of leaves flies off the overarching maples,
and he tips his bottle at me, then takes a short, sharp swig.
It would be easy to climb the steps and join him,
to spend the day there, trading trips to the fridge
and meandering stories, and some roseate part
of my mind urges my body toward this. That piece of me
remembers rollicking nights in open fields, slurred vows
of happiness, stumbling promises of love,
and cannot understand why we have cast off
such things. That piece–I have to remind it
of the rooms with no windows, of waking
in pools of my own anger and remorse.
I nod back at the man, and head for the corner,
arriving as the bus stops and exhales. My token
chimes into the collection box, and when I find a seat
next to a boy–crowned with headphones
and bopping to a faintly audible beat–the bus
banks away from the curb and into the clear-headed day.
“The Straight and Narrow” by Iain Haley Pollock, from After Shocks, The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events
“Beautiful World” by Colin Hay
“I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets, yeah this is as good as it gets…”
Gratefully celebrated nine years sobriety yesterday with a happy, healthy and mostly recovered Sadie dog (my Aussie Cattle Dog mix who was bit by a Copperhead last week). Thank you to everyone who sent us well-wishes and positive thoughts. So grateful for you, Christy