The Landlord Next Door

by Jim Esch

he’s down from Honeybrook in a pickup truck
LBJ Stetson, leathery skin, 75 and counting
working at the chain link in the backyard,
pulling off morning glories wrapped around his fence.

bitter, he spits, he stops to look at the mess
all this growth, it blows his top
there’ll always be something he won’t approve of

I should come out and introduce myself–
“Hi! Whatcha doin’ neighbor?”
something freezes me at the back door
he’s a landlord, something subhuman.

he’s gonna bitch about my tomatoes clinging
to his chain link, if not that then something else–

I can hear his throat singer nicotine mantra
“how much better the neighborhood used to be.”
they’d mow and mow till the grass gave up.

in dreams the old owner of my house returns
to tell me everything I’m doing wrong,
how shoddy is my upkeep of his house

I’m up early on the splintering deck,
creased by long morning shadows,

my mind spreading out with the vines
growing wild as weeds
that grab and don’t let go
until they fill every crevice,
every border overcome with green.

Jim Esch lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and teaches writing and literature at Widener University. His recent work has appeared in Mad Swirl, juked, Cezanne’s Carrot, The Quiet Feather, and Idlewheel.

Back to Issue One: Fall 2008