My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
And wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him
And once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
About Blue, his dog. They took her away
And I readied myself, a baseball bat
Inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream
And I couldn’t help it, that pathetic
Relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I’d understand
Why victims cling and forgive. I plugged in
The Sleep-Sound and it crashed
Like the ocean all the way to sleep.
One afternoon I found him
On the stoop,
A pistol in his hand, waiting,
He said, for me. A sparrow had gotten in
To our common basement.
Could he have permission
To shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
Might go through the floor.
I said I’d catch it, wait, give me
A few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
Afraid, I trapped it
With a pillow. I remember how it felt
When I got my hand, and how it burst
That hand open
When I took it outside, a strength
That must have come out of hopelessness
And the sudden light
And the trees. And I remember
The way he slapped the gun against
His open palm,
Kept slapping it, and wouldn’t speak.