My neighbor doesn’t speak much. In the eight years that we’ve lived opposite of each other I’ve spoken to him twice, excluding the occasion when my deceased rottweiler charged at him late one night. He keeps to himself to an impressive degree; there have been times when I haven’t seen him or heard him for weeks. Once every year he cleans the gutters by hand, and when it snows he shovels his sidewalk and the sidewalk along the street. He brushes the snow off of his car, but doesn’t drive it. His duplex has an inconspicuous allure to it, and could be mistaken as vacant had it not been for the idle car in the front yard. And a petite American flag situated above the mailbox. The curtains remain closed and my neighbor seems to prefer his solitude.
The nature of my neighbor is why I tend not to speak to him. If one does not want to speak, I have no intention in potentially being a nuisance. Quiet neighbors are the best neighbors afterall. Add a high fence and one has found themself a prime lot.
It was Wednesday morning, after the blizzard had ended and the highest snowdrifts settled at four feet tall. My new neighbor had asked to borrow my snow shovel, and I said, go to town with it for all I care. As his own token of gratitude, he shoveled my driveway, too. Generous neighbors are the best neighbors afterall. All I was left to clear was my walkway leading up to my front door. When I finished I had spotted my reclusive neighbor starting on his walkway. I know that he smokes and I hadn’t seen him smoke for quite a long time — those infrequent occasions that I see him. I walked over and offered him a cigarette. We stuck our shovels in the snow and talked.
My neighbor, Robert, has been unemployed for almost three years now. It’s a story that we’ve all heard before, only this was my neighbor. I got him a cup of coffee and as he went on about some of his financial plight, I offered to take him to the library and help him apply for work. He seemed more concerned to tell me about a possible job that I’d be interested in since I had mentioned that my hours were cut in half several months ago at my current job. I thought it odd that Robert would care more about my own situation when his appeared so dire, at least to me. After a couple more cigarettes and cups of coffee, I left him a few extra smokes and some non-perishable groceries as a gesture of good will. On Saturday, I told Robert, we’ll go the library.
Come Saturday I knocked at Robert’s door with no answer. I stood there for almost ten minutes, and I had just seen him shovel a bit of snow away from his place. I walked back to my own place to write a note that I had knocked at his door. As I walked away, Robert appeared from around the corner, holding a yellow sheet of paper in his hand. Robert said that he couldn’t go with me to the library that afternoon, but he wanted to give me this poem he had written a while back. It’s about September Eleventh, he said, and since you’re a writer and all take it and if you make some money off it we can split it fifty-fifty — you can even say that you wrote it, or that we wrote it together. He spoke quickly and appeared hard-pressed, almost in a fit of desperation, and I didn’t understand why. I told Robert that I’d be happy to publish his poem on my blog, where people can visit my site and read it. The likelihood of making any money, I said to him, is slim to none, but I give credit where credit is due, so since you wrote the poem, I’ll publish it under your name only. Robert was grateful. I took the poem and went inside.
My Beloved Country (911 Poem)
By Robert Sawyer of Crest Hill, Illinois
I see S.A.C.* jets soar through the skyes
of my Beloved Country,
I know not where they go
I know not what they know.
You see, terrorists attacked my country
and hurt many a family
and in their wake they did leave
many a death, burials and sadness
for all of my countrymen to see.
With heads bowed down I pray to God
to keep my country from all forms of harm
in hopes that he will hear my prayers
and raise up His mighty arm.
I know not when this war will end,
I pray very soon
but this much I do know though,
that true peace, brotherhood and charity
can never begin none too soon.
*S.A.C. stands for “Strategic Air Command”, which Robert wanted me to make a point of when reading his poem.