OUR NEIGHBOUR’S HOUSE IS ON FIRE
and we’re afraid it will spread.
Bigger than our house, its upper rooms
commodious; vaulted windows
survey grounds embroidered with magnolias.
From our porch we see waiters freighted with trays
glide through murmurs of politics,
golf, Vegas. A few drones drift by,
Beyond the stately doorway, corridors
uncomfortably warm, gusting heat,
passages fouled with smoke ascending
Pirenesi staircases to servants’ garrets,
down and down murky passages,
stink of desperation, seepage of teargas.
Armoured doors muffle shrieks—words
we can’t make out.
Caged children whimper in their sleep.
Things scuttle in the dark.
Our neighbour’s house is on fire
but we share its toxic air.
Our house: modest, more equitable,
and we’re a bit smug about that.
In fact, annoyingly smug,
as though no nasty somethings
lurk in the Canadian woodshed.
Well, yes, we could do better, we say,
but at least we’re not as bad as….them.
Our roof could catch fire any time
but between penthouse and basement,
two houses both alike in dignity
who never think of cellars,
accustomed to suburban air, armed against aliens,
don't think they’re in danger,
don’t see the commons
already in cinders.
Their bunker is never full.
They will never climb barricades, never hear
sobs of penned children,
nor the knee of the law on the neck of the man
who cries for his mother.