The widow next door bitches that the tenants in the house behind her
jump her six-foot fence, cross her yard, and then jump the prefab
fence in the back to get to those cheap rooms they rent, can you believe it.
Too far to walk around the block like the rest of us. They know
there’s no husband, so it’s okay to take a shortcut through
her property. Now she’s barb-wired the fence. It’s an eyesore.
She flaps her hands about when she whinges. She explodes her Ps
and drags out her Gs and Rs and I want to decline the offer of tea.
I feel a little guilty sometimes, but dear god, so many slights!
My cat scratching in her garden, the tenants’ boy
who keeps bouncing a ball off that rattling fence …
He’s going to bring it down, she says every time.
On Saturday mornings, the only time we sleep late,
she tears off the branches that reach over the fence from
our garden. Who can sleep through that?
She says only onward. She tells her depressed children –
who can blame them? – not to re-tread the past, but she never stops
telling you how awful her husband was. Always the martyr.
You’ve never seen such a clean and shiny house. I knocked on her door early
one morning looking for Tomcat. Her hair was in curlers and she’d already
tidied the house and she was busy putting on make-up. I have better things to do.
No sense of design, just the odd dried-out calabash and copper jug.
And that bunch of old proteas! And the furniture is covered in plain cream –
the carpet is beige, the walls are white. It is all so vanilla.
Apparently the kitchen floors are sterilised daily. Once a week she moves
the furniture about and vacuums the carpets with arms pumping like pistons.
Our bedroom looks straight into her living room – no net curtains to trap dust.
She says she finds it therapeutic to sit down and polish
the marks and scratches on her copper pots. They all gleam.
You can lift the rug in such a house and find nothing.
© Sara P. Dias (May 2012)
The poem, Living Unit, was chosen for the SLiP (Stellenbosch Literary Project) May 2012 poetry workshop: Left out of the Republic.
Finuala Dowling said of the poem:
Two poems that engaged me but that I wanted a little more restrained were Sara P.Dias’ ‘Living unit’ and Stephen Roberts’ ‘Watching and Waiting’. In very different ways we are drawn to the characters in these poems, but because the poems are a little crowded, there’s not quite enough space for us to move into these worlds and secretly observe.