Between Neighbors


The complainant is a big man
in his own goddamn front yard
in a wheelchair, his voice as high
and highly offended (but only half
as loud) as the dogs barking
on his porch. His goddamn neighbors
(a young male couple
standing their own ground
deadpanned, on the other side
of the chain-link fence) went and aimed
their hose at his expensive bird
and hosed it. It was innocently
catching a little healthy goddamn sun
in its cage. The cop bends close
to listen. Then he walks off
to consult the complainees
who say the barking, the barking goes
on?and on till they can’t, just can’t
stand it. If they pass on the sidewalk,
the dogs bark. If they decide to swing
on their porch swing, the dogs???
bark, so, yes, they hosed his parrot
and would do it again. The big man says
between barks he needs, listen, he needs
the dogs as a signal to tell him
strangers are nearby. The cop explains
loudly the definition of nuisance,
issues a warning, turns his palms
like a double stop sign up and against
the opposing sides, then demonstrates
keeping the peace by bending
forward and saying, “Polly,
want a cracker?” and offering
through the cage bars, one healing finger,
and the wet-backed, green-backed,
red-white-and-blue para-
military macaw gives a counterdemonstration
to all of them of what can happen
if you give somebody, anybody, a finger.

from A Map of the Night; poems (University of Illinois Press, 2008), copyright © 2008 by David Wagoner, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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