“Vinyl-Sided Epiphany”

Click here to listen to Erika Meitner read this poem.

The windows on the soon-to-be luxury condos across the way say things to the darkness I can’t hear. Sometimes they’re blocked by the train masticating its way across town. Now and then

I can interpret their blank banter,
reminiscent of  that ribbon gymnastics
no one ever watches during the Olympics. 
They gracefully signal about our frugality (fragility),
a howling yard dog (not ours) and the rain

like a strange barrage of so many shot marbles.
The bullets we thought were firecrackers
turned out to be bullets. I take the trash out
vinyl nights crippled with fear that thumps
home from work at 3 a.m. We finally decide

to take a break after the well-meaning Block
Association gave out rolls of clear trash bags
so we’d pick up after the delinquents who curb
crushed chicken boxes or chuck Sprite bottles
from car windows. Yes, we’ll ride off

and leave the neighbor’s voice through the floor,
rusty, molten, like pouring pennies in a jar,
that metallic taste, that exact heaviness.
You didn’t specify how long we’d abandon
the planted bulbs, clawfoot tub, the meat grinder

attached to the side of the counter. We’d be safe
while someone else inherited our condiments.
But the rest stops would be anonymous, highway
industrial and rutted. I’d have to learn
new ways to eavesdrop on the neighbors,

who plays the ukulele and is no longer my student;
he sent me a broken-heart poem after his girlfriend
dumped him, which used broken things as similes 
for his heart. For now, she said in his poem—
that’s how long they were apart.