Our prompt today was to write a poem that features walls, bricks, stones, arches, or the like.
The new neighbors are not friendly.
From their side of my wall,
they have reached over my wall to sever the vines
that have covered my tall palms
that abut the wall
that has separated our properties
for thirteen years—
those maroon bougainvillea vines,
stretched ten feet wide
by covering layers of blue thunbergia,
formed a community that housed families
of birds and possums and possibly
a very large but harmless snake.
I saw it cross my patio once,
the dog and I turning our heads toward each other,
exchanging looks of surprise
like characters from a stage play or a comic book,
her so startled and curious that she followed,
nose to the ground, to the brush beside the
wall the snake had vanished into,
but never issued a bark.
At night the palm trees
and their surrounding cloaks
would give mysterious rustlings that
aroused the barking of the dogs
and I’d let them in—the pup to sleep
in the cage that was his security
and my security as well—against chewed
Birkenstocks and ruined Oaxacan rugs
and treats purloined from the little silver
garbage can that held the kitchen scraps
saved for Yolanda’s pigs.
Along with the vines,
the new neighbors cut the main stalk of the bougainvillea
that grew to fifteen feet on my side of the wall
and furnished privacy from the eyes
of those standing on their patio,
ten feet above mine,
so that now their patio looks directly down
on my pool and hot tub and into my bedroom,
their new bright patio light shines all night long
into my world formerly filled
with stars and moonlight and tree rustlings.
The old wall has revealed its cracks and colors
from several past paintings
that were later made unnecessary by its cloak of vines.
Now an ugly wall that separates neighbors,
it echoes the now-dead vines that stretch 80 feet up
to the fronds of the palms.
It takes three men three days to cut the refuse of
the dry vines down from the trees,
two truckloads to bear the cuttings away.
The dogs still bark, but the possum and the birds
have gone to some other haven,
and the men come to erect the metal trellis,
12 feet high, above the top of my low wall.
I hope the bougainvillea will grow
to cover it this rainy season,
building a lovelier wall
between neighbors who still have not met
by their preference, not mine,
causing me to wonder
if I really am as welcome in this country
as I have felt for all these years.
“My neighbors are the same,” my friend tells me.
“They do not really want us here,
and if you think they do,
you are deluding yourself.”
Thirteen years in Mexico. I miss my old neighbors,
best friends who would come to play Mexican Train at 5 minutes notice.
I miss their little yipping dog and the splash of their fountain
that the new neighbors ripped out and threw away
and the bougainvillea that drooped over my wall into their world.
“Scorpions!” the new neighbors decreed, and lopped it off wall-high.
It was a wall more than doubled in its height
by a vine as old as my life in Mexico
that can now be peered over
even from their basement casita.
With old walls gone,
higher walls of misunderstanding
have been constructed.
Each weekend their family streams in from Guadalajara.
Children laugh, adults descend the stairs
to their hot tub down below.
When I greet them, they do not smile.
I have painted the old wall,
now so clearly presented to view,
and I have taken to wearing a swimsuit in my hot tub,
waiting for my new wall to grow higher.
“Before” detail of tree vine and hedge.
“After” detail of tree vine.
Constructing a higher wall to limit their view into my yard.
Trimming the dead vines after their gardener reached over the wall to cut it’s main trunk.
Detail of my wall with the dead vines stripped away, prepped for repainting.
(Happy Ending: Eight years after writing the poem you have just read, I now have new neighbors, the bougainvillea and thunbergia have grown to cover the new trellis wall, and they love the vines that actually flower more profusely on their side than mine.)