Pushing Boundaries

Marcie Lynn Tentchoff

In our neighbourhood
every face is friendly and familiar,
one we’ve seen before
across a smoking barbecue,
with memories of grilling meat
and laughter mixing with the screams
of happy kids.

Or from a yard sale
where the price on some
long outgrown child’s toy
was cut to match our daughter’s
not-too-large-at-best allowance,
when it’s been already drained
by ice cream cones and chocolate bars.

We know the old cars,
new cars, hair styles,
the much regretted impulse buys,
and every celebration, argument,
new playmate, boyfriend, fashion choice
that has ever been paraded past
our neatly manicured front lawns.

We know to smile and nod
when Victor Jones two houses down
waves a somewhat grumpy paw
as he lopes to fetch his morning Times;
he’s never at his best before he’s brushed away
the remnants of his dinner hunt with mint and fluoride,
then had three cups of coffee laced with cream.

We commiserate with Katherine when
she storms out of her Tudor showing off her
patchy scales, and wailing over
pool guys who can’t get the chlorine right,
then agree that good hydration
is the cornerstone of health,
and that health is, after all, the most important thing.

Then we chew the fat with Angie ‘cross the street
as she, eyes rolling, waits with barely curbed impatience
for her son to tie his wrappings on just right
to make the waves he wants to make at school,
and comment on the “Tut Tut” bumper sticker
that her husband thought was brilliant wit,
even though she thinks it’s gauche.

But we never ask whose fat we’re chewing,
which neighbourhoods that are not ours
have lost a child, an aunt, a grandpa,
or an over-hearty parish priest.
It’s not our job to pry into our neighbour’s secrets,
or to push the boundaries of what might
happen out beyond our own.

Marcie Lynn Tentchoff is a writer/poet/editor from Canada’s west coast, where she lives in a tangle of dense underbrush with her family and miscellaneous creatures, both of the indoor, outdoor, and in-roof varieties. Marcie’s work has appeared in such publications as On Spec, Weird Tales, Polar Starlight, and Star*Line, and her third poetry collection, Midnight Comes Early, is currently available from Hiraeth Publishing.