As children, we listened
to this sweater swapping, shoe changing old friend,
extend his unconditional invitation
on the television:
"Won't you be my neighbor?"
And this recent memory
sank into an open wound
as I laughed at the irony
of The Golden rule my life:
It is written,
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
But, I forget it.
I fear my neighbors as I fear to share myself.
My ideas to initiate "friendly" communication
with these familiar strangers
are paralyzed by pessimism,
as I think through countless things
that they might be thinking;
but I cannot know what they are thinking
unless I meet them, and they tell me.
And thus far, I know little more
than what I've seen
between their front doors and the street.
Like Mr. Across-the-way;
He constantly calls for taxis
when all he'd have to do is ask me
for a lift, but I have been there,
wondering how to ask for help
from those to whom
I have offered so little of myself.
And better yet,
why doesn't Mr. Across-the-way
call Mr. Downstairs
to take him places?
Since he drives a taxi for a living,
to keep his family living
here, so near I hear their every conversation
coming through the ventilation,
though we don't exchange much face to face.
We are so closely disconnected.
Ironically, on Fridays
my roommates order pizza delivery from strangers,
when that’s how our neighbor, Mr. Next-door,
earns his wages
to rent the space just inside the next door,
with his wife, new born boy, and little girl.
We are so closely disconnected.
And all these close missed connections
fail to set the broken bones
in our closeted relational skeletons,
whose divides require stitching [of thread]
that doesn't have to come from our family ties,
but may be (found) laced into our neighbors' shoes—
those I rarely imagine standing in,
though I daily retrace their steps.
We walk on top of the same concrete block sidewalks,
park our bikes and cars in the same lots
and navigate around the same puddles,
bus routes, traffic signals, ugly carpet, and plumbing;
we just don't consider each other "close."
Though, we reside only meters
away from the places our neighbors
lay (down) to sleep,
and awake to take their first breath
in the morning.
I'm sure if I thought more about it,
I'd realize how vulnerable I am
behind my walls,
inside my boxed in shelter place,
when I’m lounging and vegging,
showering and eye-brow tweezing,
grunting, (and) farting,
praying, (and) dancing:
actions I do naturally alone,
just not so well in front of others.
I’m not always publicizing my private life,
just wishing I weren't the only one in it.
Sometimes I need help,
an opportunity to be mutually woven
into another’s consideration.
And I wonder,
why not Mr. and Mrs. Next-door?
Why not them?
Why instead do I commute all across this city
to talk honestly with a friend?
when inside I long to share with someone near,
who knows and understands
what I go through
I hate residing in hiding,
in fear of exposure,
presuming to know what everyone (around me) is thinking (about me).
But my apartment space is vacant,
(though) surrounded by acquaintances.
I hate knowing them as strangers!
But, I’d love to become friends.
And my personal space is too often vacant,
surrounded by acquaintances.
Garret Potter has come from nine states and Japan to find himself a familiar name in the international Poetry Slam
community. He is cursed with consideration which he has learned to turn into gifts: heart-pounding, mind-delving inquiries and observations on vulnerability, community, and sustainability—poems. He likes moments with new people, movies, and food, old friends, books, bikes, and forests...more