In summer, barefoot and blest, we walk Preston Way. The burnt sidewalk never blisters our soles.
Here are round-walled fantastical houses, their walls ice-white, their roofs hammered from zinc.
Acacia, agave, and liquid amber screen each neighbor from the other.
Anyone can use the sidewalk.
Still, we prefer to remain indoors. We alarm our houses against the weather. If we miss daylight, we install sun tunnels, heat-flooding our windowless bedrooms.
An out-of-town guest says we confuse numbness for well-being.
So what if we do?
The world suffers. Why welcome pain through the front door?
“confuse numbness” – Jen Hoffer
A neighbor on Barnard asks me: Why write about streets? Why not write about people? It’s like your streets are empty.
My neighbor is right. I sweep my streets clean of crowds. I lock neighbors in their rooms. Not one of these stick figures has a name. Some I call you. Most I call neighbor.
A woman I knew in college smoked clove cigarettes and opened her dorm room to parties. Bowie orbited her turntable.
I couldn’t hear myself think.
I sat on the carpet, back to the wall. I stared at her windows, her electrical outlets, the smoke from her ashtrays. Week after week lost in white noise.
Nothing has changed. I like the last dark, just before sunrise. I like empty afternoon sidewalks and dark rooms, pensive at night.
I explain to my neighbor: These poems. They’re a little like still lives.
My name is not neighbor, she says.
Ruth is an avenue, at the northern edge of Venice, California. Naomi, also an avenue, bisects Central-Alameda.
On the map, seventeen miles separate Naomi from Ruth. No one who lives on Ruth Avenue knows that Naomi exists. No one who lives on Naomi has heard of Ruth.
In the Book of Judges, Ruth marries Mahlon, son of Naomi. Ruth is Moabite and Naomi, Judean.
After a time, both women are widowed. Naomi says to Ruth: Stay with your kin in Moab. I will return to my own land.
Ruth’s heart goes out to her dead husband’s mother. Says Ruth: Where you go, I will go.
In the Book of Judges, seventeen miles is a long way. On seventeen miles of Levantine road, you could be robbed or worse.
Still, in my paragraphs, these two avenues cleave to one another.
My lie is truer than your map.
Tom Laichas’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rappahannock Review, Ambit, Spillway, Prime 53 and elsewhere. His debut collection, Empire of Eden, was published by The High Window Press in 2019, and his chapbook Sixty-Three Photographs from the End of a War is due out later this year from 3.1 Venice Press.