The Neighborhood (Revised) - Poem by Max Reif
Mr. Woods sat every afternoon on the front porch
of the grey stone house across the street from us.
Sometimes one of his daughters sat beside him.
Millie had said Mr. Woods was dying of cancer.
Once or twice my dad, on the way to his car,
waved and mumbled, “Hi, Woody”. Mostly, though,
a thick veil had been drawn between our two worlds.
I saw their lives as a kind of pantomime.
Mrs. Woods would come and stand in the doorway
in her apron, then go, I imagined, back to her kitchen.
It was like watching a silent soap opera on TV.
There had to be some deeper mystery
why life lit up some homes on Waterman
and other stayed completely dark to us.
The sidewalk lit a bright path to the Mellmans'
five houses up the street— two boys our ages.
Our fathers too had been best friends as boys.
Carl Ebert, whom all the street heard arguing
with his aged mom as he walked to his car each morning
would always turn around and wave to me.
Mrs. Hahn, who was raised on the East Texas plains,
put palm to forehead whenever the dark clouds massed
and was quick to tell us, as she scanned the sky for funnels,
If we’d need to go down to the basement that afternoon.
But there were some whose lives were a mystery,
people I knew, yet did not know at all—
still others, whose names I'd never even learned,
walled away in the brown brick of their homes.
It was just that the Woods' lived right across the street.
From our front door window, they were the ones I saw—
whom I could not touch, to whom I could not speak.
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