Winter 2013 - THE POTOMAC


   Chris Siteman

My neighbor polishes his Ford
Explorer & talks about faggots
as his son sits on the front steps.

The word barks from his gut like
wood they used to burn heretics;
he bunches the rag in his fist.

You know where that word comes
from? Teach you that at school?
The vein on his forehead stands.

I hear him tell the boy that, God
thinks it’s unnatural, like two
dogs who’d fuck anything—

The boy purses his lips & stares
at his fingers woven into a net
he wishes held the right answer.

* * *

Before leaving for work & after,
the man walks their brown three
legged poodle, & as the leash runs

out like air between his stone hands
the dog wags its stub for a tail
and hops up the sidewalk rocking

horse–like— Sitting here watching
them’s like looking the wrong way
down a telescope: he’s far away,

but I feel him feeling for the dog.
Holding out a milkbone he calls
to the dog, & it lopes to him

tongue hanging from its mouth. At
times, in the town center I see him
buy ice cream for neighborhood

children. And as he stands in front
of the Store24, he wipes at tears that
twinkle his cheeks like little jewels.

* * *

Nights I hear him yell at his wife,
the boy, the walls— But wood &
plaster kill his words, so all I hear

are tones, the deep bass, his despair
rising until it becomes shrill anger—
The world exacted so much blood

and just went on spinning: Fucking
bastards, acting like nothing’s enough
to make a world perfect over— His

voice shakes their house: he wants
answers. I imagine my neighbor thinks
the world’s too easy for the weak

to survive; somehow life ought to be
harder— Likely, he thinks the spilled
blood was worth more. Of course,

he’s right— Early Sundays they pile
brushed & shining into their SUV,
heading off for, I’m assuming, church—

And I see the bumper sticker bright
red, white & black against the blood
maroon of the body—

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