for Kevin Clark
Here from the top it all made sense:
how the white Spanish walls between
the houses met, the geometry
of neighborhoods squared out into lines.
I'd sit in the tree for hours
looking through leaves and coffee-stain berries
down the block and toward the cliff
that dropped to the ocean, clouds, and sky,
and sense the peace of it all,
the parceling out of the land,
the way each life could spend
its brief, green section of grass;
Old Man Wilson with his mulch-pile,
the Winslows further, the house always closed
to the yard, and the Granitellis
next door, with a green lattice flower house
they never used, a part of the property
now the province of German Shepherds
that would take a hand off of you
before you could retrieve a ball.
It wasn't walnuts, there were no walnut trees
as there are here, it was just a tree,
and they were the neighbors, and it all seems
as vast and old, so far and dying.
[Previously published in Dickinson Review]
Allan Johnston has published in over 60 journals, including Rhino, Poetry, Poetry East, and elsewhere. His book Tasks of Survival (Mellen Poetry Press) appeared in 1996. He received a fellowship in poetry from the Illinois Arts Council. Originally from California, he now lives near Chicago, and teaches writing and literature at Columbia College and DePaul University.