cross-eyed dogs and roses

all the houses looked like the next
the basic shape, a two story rectangle
and they were all connected
by narrow walls, of thin gypsum
the sounds and smells from one
bleeding into the next
and if you climbed up
with scraped-knuckle fingers
clenching the edges of window frames
pulling small bodies up the downspouts
and over the gutters
if you climbed up
onto the sticky-tar roof
you could run across all of the houses
tapping on the aluminum television antennas
as you go
making cross-eyed dogs bark
in the mottled yards below
and making men in yellowed undershirts
holler out of summer’s tilted-wood windows–
“get off my roof you little fucks!”
you could run across all of the houses
until you got to the end
with nowhere left to go
but down
again
and Helen lived toward the middle of the row
we always wondered how an old woman
could still have such red hair
and why she lived alone
and why her front door was so ornate
black, wrought iron, curling and twisting
in thickly woven patterns
ending in sharp-spear points
while everyone else’s front door
was plain, painted, white tin
and we wondered
why Helen had so many
roses
in her yard
mostly pink
but some red
all, with thorns
we wondered
until we found something else
to wonder about
keeping the silence
of the damned

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