Wednesday, September 9, 2020


He Attempts to Love His Neighbours

My neighbours do not wish to be loved.

They have made it clear that they prefer to go peacefully

about their business and want me to do the same.

This ought not to surprise me as it does;

I ought to know by now that most people have a hundred things

they would rather do than have me love them.

There is television, for instance; the truth is that almost everybody,

given the choice between being loved and watching TV,

would choose the latter. Love interrupts dinner,

interferes with mowing the lawn, washing the car,

or walking the dog. Love is a telephone ringing or a doorbell

waking you moments after you've finally succeeded in getting to   

So we must be careful, those of us who were born with

the wrong number of fingers or the gift

of loving; we must do our best to behave

like normal members of society and not make nuisances

of ourselves; otherwise it could go hard with us.

It is better to bite back your tears, swallow your laughter,

and learn to fake the mildly self-deprecating titter

favoured by the bourgeoisie

than to be left entirely alone, as you will be,

if your disconformity embarrasses

your neighbours; I wish I didn't keep forgetting that.


Alden Nowlan
Selected Poems
Anansi 1996

If you have experienced a quarter of what Nowlan
shares with us here, you get the picture. Shirley Jackson in her
1948 harrowing short story "The Lottery" tells it another way.
As a boy my neighborhood was filled with bicycles and short-cuts.
You go back and the short-cuts aren't there.

[ BA ]