Ken Smith (1938 - 2003)
In the Next Street
there’s only ever one argument: his,
bawling out whoever punctuates
the brief intervals his cussing
| interrupts, something unheard, reason perhaps.
What you never get is silence,
always some groan on the horizon
out on the borders of attention
where would be quiet if they let it.
Always some conversation far away,
foreign, banal. dramatic, translated
it means my wife’s name is Judit.
I am an engineer from Spidertown.
What to reply? Your Majesty,
my name is Smith. All lies anyway,
all we do is get drunk, the evening’s end
collapsing loosely into gutturals.
We drink to silence, where the stars think.
We drink to the music of the rain on the roof.
We drink to mothers, brothers, lovers, kids,
to the candle burning down its length
till someone blows it out. Distance
makes no difference, the same want
for love or money, the numbers of the winning line
in the state lottery like a needle in the brain.
And then I’ve had enough. I want
to go home now, far away, to plug myself
back into the sockets, the blackbird,
the evening humming stories to itself,
everything in its place, the moths,
the mouse in the mousetrap, and
in the next street the same old argument.
He’s sure he’s right.
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