Up the long hill
On our morning walk
We cross a side street,
The dog and I;
A car slides to a halt,
The passenger window descends,
An acquaintance from long ago
Hails me by name.
He’s now moved on
To assisted living,
Misses his work, misses
Young people in the office.
“Growing old is for the birds,”
He says, offering a hand
Devoid of several digits.
Within the next block,
My neighbor steps out of his car,
Transfers the smoldering cigarette
To offer me his hand.
I point to the corner house
Across the street.
“Have you seen Paul?”
I ask him.
No, he shakes his head.
“He left without saying goodbye,
The house is in foreclosure.”
“How much they ask?”
“It will probably go to auction,”
I explain, pacing my words so he can follow.
“In Iraq I have much land,
Big wholesale business,
Import-export,” he says.
“In the war I lose everything.”
I wait in momentary silence.
“Now I try to begin again.”
I search my mind for something to say.
“Old biblical proverb:
Get knocked down seven times,
Get up eight.”
He nods his broad head
I sit on the front porch, reading.
The street sweeper whirs by,
Making two moist circuits,
Disappears at the far end of the block.
The postman zips down the street,
Snapping mailboxes open and shut.
His tiny truck coasts to a stop
Before our house,
The ever-present cigarette
Dangling from the driver’s mouth.
Two doors down
A tree climber drops
The topmost branches
Of an ancient copper beech.
Thy hit the ground with a thud.
“How old you think it is?” I shout.
From his eyrie perch he shrugs a shoulder.
“One hundred years at least,” he says.
My wife fills the birdbath and
Waters the irises.
A neighbor pauses with her dog
To admire the gardens.
“Your wife has a green thumb!”
A brown wren recites the liturgy
From his front porch pulpit
On the white wicker chair.
The church bell strikes noon.
My wife chats with the next-door neighbor
Over the scalloped picket fence.
I don my Panama hat
And saunter down to the park.
A white-eye-ringed duck
Escorts her brood of seven ducklings
Through murky still waters
Behind the tennis courts.
Pickup trucks and SUVs
Sprawl along the shoulder
Of the cul-de-sac at
The end of the road.
Dogs leap and race,
Owners bark commands,
Beers in hand.
A red-bearded man rolls a cigarette.
“I can get seventy out of a single pouch
Of American Spirit tobacco,” he says.
The lone Latino man fishes the millrace
For food to feed his family.
Every evening he stands on the bar,
Casting a line into the current.
I retrace my steps up the hill.
Two doors down
Beneath the stately groomed trunk
The tree climber feeds
Dropped branches into his chipper.
“Comin’ down this evening,” he says.
I turn into my driveway and pause,
Push back my hat,
Look out over the flowerbeds:
There, in the freshly-manicured lawn,
A sentinel stand of forget-me-nots.
“Copper Beech” 2016©Brian T. Maurer
2016©Brian T. Maurer