I greet my neighbour, as I always do,
leaning over the boundary fence,
calling out a few words
or giving a cheery wave.
He responds, if at all,
with a smile from his aged tombstone mouth
and a stare as still and cold as a jewel.
Even after all these years,
we have no more communication than this,
no language in common.
There are no shared experiences to be suborned,
no friendship or loyalties to be subverted,
but he will not turn against me
for belief, for high ideals
or because I have a beard.
He will act as nobody’s puppet.
We understand our roles
in each other’s lives
and I can trust him implicity.
He does have savagery in him.
Were I to cross our borders,
and he hungry or threatened,
he would kill me without hesitation,
but also without that
particularly human ferocity,
without malice or dicrimination,
There could be no negotiation,
no reference to treaties, no entreaties.
Within his compass there is
no capacity for mercy,
he could admit no guilt
about my death.
Today, he ignores me,
subsiding gently beneath the water,
elemental in his element,
his armoured body
an invisible ambush,
eyes and nostrils alone
puncturing the surface.
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Poet's Notes about The Poem
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