My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him
and once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
about Blue, his dog. They took her away
and I readied myself, a baseball bat
inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream
and I couldn’t help it, that pathetic
relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I’d understand
why victims cling and forgive. I plugged in
the Sleep-Sound and it crashed
like the ocean all the way to sleep.
One afternoon I found him
on the stoop,
a pistol in his hand, waiting,
he said, for me. A sparrow had gotten in
to our common basement.
Could he have permission
to shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
might go through the floor.
I said I’d catch it, wait, give me
a few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
afraid, I trapped it
with a pillow. I remember how it felt
when I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strength
that must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees. And I remember
the way he slapped the gun against
his open palm,
kept slapping it, and wouldn’t speak.