The Decency of Common Words

The old lady downstairs has cancer
steeping in her bones.
Her daughter walks her dog now.
She greets me with pleasantries and
a brave smile.
I offer moments of wordy goodness
as we cross paths.

Her heart is breaking.
I can hear it.
What it must feel like to watch
your giver of life deteriorate at the
hands of a silent criminal that has killed
millions must be indescribable.
I think she wants to tell me
something, but the words are stuck
behind her tongue.
I never pry.

My next-door neighbor’s fianceรฉ is
cheating on her.
She works 60-hour weeks
and comes home exhausted from
the verbal lashings she combats daily
while dealing with the public.
She tells me that my dog “is
the cutest thing ever” and I compliment
her on her uniform.
She wears it well.

I do not tell her about the dark-haired
woman who holds the hand of
her lover while she’s away.
There’ll be time for that.
And I will not be a part of
that conversation.

The thin walls of our building
will be the teller of all things
and her heart will break too.
My favorite neighbor moved out
of our building about a month ago:
leaky ceiling.
Our neighbor above him had a faulty
toilet.

I miss his freckled face and wispy
red hair that smiled at me
before he did.
I still see him from time to time.
He moved into the building
across the street, but it’s not the same.

He always had a bounty of words
that pressed into my spirit and made
me look forward to his voice.
He was the sun of our sky
and now another set of people
are blessed to feel his light.
I hope they appreciate his
heart as much as we do.


This is a recently rejected poem from a prominent literary magazine. I figured I’d share it here. Thank you in advance for reading. Peace.ย 

32 thoughts on “The Decency of Common Words

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