An echoing “clop” on the door, the sound
of a horse slowly crossing a wooden bridge
at twilight. His hopeless voice goes
into a rhythmic spiel. My wife's
sympathetic one interrupts
as soon as decent. We don't want any.
I glimpse him trudging back down our
long, long driveway: just my age,
just as stout, slack-faced, the cloudlight
pale on his skin, which is
just the color of the flesh
of a well-baked potato.
I am reminded of a night forty years gone
when a drunk girl knocked at our door
late at night, a stranger to us,
and walked straight into my arms.
I held her as she wept and told
an unintelligible story: all that rose to clarity
was that she was desperately sorry:
sorry to intrude, sorry to weep,
sorry to exist.
The walls are fragile.
No suburban wall
will stop a bullet any more: if you hear shots
the basement is the place to be.
And yet with years the walls
are all too strong;
and they thicken,
thicken with time.