Hanging Out with the Girl Next Door
Side by side, year after year, little interactions—
boarding the same yellow school bus,
chaperoning zoo field trips,
sculpting gloppy New York state salt flour maps,
picture day dressing up.
Parallel lines never converge
especially blocked by such a high hedge.
Every day we see her fair face, dark eyes—
not a bubbly, upbeat, pretty cliché—
just a beautiful, serious girl next door
whose First Communion was a little wedding:
white veil and gloves, beaded rosary.
Chicken Marsala and buttercream cake.
One day poof her mother vanishes;
the ambulance never brings her home.
Moon and stars, her only surrogates.
Finally, Grace strolls into her yard
invites my son over, and Veronica too.
He sees our house for the first time
from over their green hedge.
I ask my son should she join us for blueberry picking?
No, he shakes his head.
She doesn’t want you.
Amazing Grace swooshes 3-pointers,
leaps through sprinklers,
wants to toss our turtle like a frisbee.
This blessing drinks bubble tea
and listens to loud music,
lives to forgive and forget.
Jogging past their house,
I see the widower pull out the driveway
with a stylish new passenger.
I hear my neighbor laugh from the sky,
Michael is dating a blonde, Lisa.
Can you believe it? A blonde?
New routines, new rites of spring.
Appliance boxes line the curb,
a major kitchen renovation.
Wonder if he went with granite or marble?
Next time she walks her little white dog,
I see the girl who once ran for the ice cream truck,
no longer at the intersection of grace and grief.
Her heavy black cloak, gone for good.
Lisa Wiley is an assistant professor of English at Erie Community College, in Buffalo, NY. She is the author of two chapbooks My Daughter Wears Her Evil Eye to School (The Writer’s Den, 2015) and Chamber Music (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her poetry has appeared in Earth’s Daughters, The Healing Muse, Medical Journal of Australia, Mom Egg Review and Silver Birch Press among others. She has read her work throughout New York State and serves as a regional judge for Poetry Out Loud.