Poem: The Neighbors

Autumn Journal

The neighbors

It was hard to learn again
To trust the neighbors
She spent the war years
Walking softly
Being quiet
Smiling, but not often
Meeting the neighbors’ eyes

She still cleans the room
Every week,
Dusting the small shelf
With the books
Of poetry
And the vase
She tried to keep full of flowers
In the summertime.
Sweeping the floor,
Keeping the bed linens fresh;
Although no one has slept
Behind this hidden door
In seventy years.

She remembers the stories
Shared in the dark
Evenings during the blackout
About Mme. Broussard
And how she whispered to her brother
In the gendarme
About the people in the neighborhood
That she didn’t like
And no one saw those neighbors again.
And M. Cloet, the school teacher
Who would ask his students
To tell him what their parents spoke
About the Vichy government
At home.

It was hard to learn again
To trust…

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