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Words that Smell Bad

Text of Poem

Neighbor, your ‘‘friendly’’ note arrived
via the mailman and I wondered if we
weren’t speaking or if you had bronchitis.
I am with you in keeping trim yards
and a clean alley. I will prune the
tree limb that overhangs your line,
pick up the beer cans from the picnic table,
level the pile of dirt where I dug out
the elm stump. If you will clean your
Sunday papers out of my hedge, shore up
your wall spilling on my lawn, collect
the turds from the hound you loose
after dark to run through my backyard.
Let us define our views on cleanliness
and order, we Americans have a knack for
instructing our neighbors. We who live
with polluted water, smog, junkyards and
the detritus from a people who litter
streets with their crap and all the poop
that squirts from our bottles of amusement.
Sure, we say, clean, clean up, clean up the
blacks, the colleges, the U.N., Cuba, the
whole caboodle, the world needs our deodorant.
Once a game warden sniffed around my father
for pheasant shot out of season and my father
said, ‘‘Take your nose out of my ass.’’
Neighbor, I wish I had thought of that.

First Line
Neighbor, your "friendly" note arrived
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
New River Review 2 (1977) 59.
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we Americans have a knack for / instructing our neighbors