by Holly Day
I spent nearly a whole summer staring through the slats of the fence
at the people next door. We weren’t allowed to talk to them
because something was wrong with them, they didn’t have electricity,
they had an outhouse in the back, a pond in their yard.
Once a week, an old woman would come out of the house carrying a stack of rugs
and beat them until they were clean. I didn’t understand what she was doing
thought she did it because she was angry, like when my mom broke glasses and pop bottles
in the driveway when she was mad.
They had kids, but they were too old for us to play with
one boy had a motorcycle, like my dad, but my dad
didn’t ever talk to the boy about his motorcycle. “They don’t have a television!”
my mom would wonder, in those days before she got so angry
she smashed up our own set, threw a boot through the screen
ended Saturday cartoons in our house for good.
I used to wonder what it was like in their house, if they had furniture
or if they slept in piles of blankets spread over the freshly-beaten rugs
drew hieroglyphs on the walls with fingers dipped in home-made paint
huddled around a roaring fire in the middle of their living room, the smoke
disappearing through rotted slats in the ceiling.