Forest Hamer

What I can tell you is that he is my neighbor.

I can tell you we live next to each other in separated worlds.


He stays inside behind shut blinds.

His yard is a mess.  He puts his garbage out at night.


His wife keeps to herself, and she looks up only at distance.

Their child plays in the street near the other children, but

        none of the children play games together.


Sometimes, my cousin refuses to visit, or when he comes he refuses to stay,

        because he remembers the beatings and the prods to his balls.


My brother is convinced my neighbor is responsible this happened.

My sister shakes even at the thought this thing has happened.


My neighbor is losing weight; he is already a small man.

His house needs painting, and the leaves from the tree are choking his drains.


I am thinking of getting two dogs, and I wonder what my neighbor will think.

I am thinking of replacing the fence.

I am thinking of raising my attic, bring light in from the sky.

What will my neighbor think?


What will happen if there is an earthquake, shaking us out of our houses

        into the street?  Will it be necessary to speak to my neighbor?


Will I ask him about my cousin?

Will I mention the leaves from the tree?

Will I ask him how he raises his child,


        whether he and his family need candles?

Found In Volume 35, No. 01
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  • Forest Hamer
Forest Hamer
About the Author

Forest Hamer is the author of Call & Response (Alice James, 1995), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award; and Middle Ear (Roundhouse/Heyday, 2000), winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award.  His work has appeared in many journals, and has been anthologized in Poet’s Choice: Poems for Everyday Life, The Geography of Home: California’s Poetry of Place, Making Callaloo: 25 Years of Black Literature, Blues Poems, and the 1994 and 2000 Editions of Best American Poetry.