On my street we all avoid
getting pulled into a conversation
with the guy
who lives on the second floor
of the pale yellow triple-decker.
If there is an iris
in the front yard, he’ll mention it
and will have taken the time to look up
which variety it belongs to. You will know
if it is bearded or Siberian
almost as soon as he does. He’ll follow that
with a report on all the tangents he took
on the way to that information.
You will soon be as bored as he apparently is.
I suspect that he talks so much
because not to speak
would leave him alone with his thoughts
and if you’ve listened to him at all,
you can understand how scared he should be
for having them.
He says he would like to have an invisible hand
in one of history’s defining moments
and be the only one who knows of it.
He would like to go to China
and buy a farm child to water his garden
so that he could watch her
and then tearfully describe to her
how carefully she moves among the plants
and then he would take her home
and not ask for his money back.
He believes it would be worth it to see
how baffled they all would be.
He would consider it
an improbable adventure which evolved
strictly for his own pleasure.
Someday she’d come back to him as a famous journalist
and tell him her eye for detail
and her robust self-esteem
were all due to him
and then she would sit with him for days
and capture his story
for her book on great men she had known.
But instead he looks out the open window
down at the ragged yard
and waits for the neighbors to come by
so he can speculate out loud about the hens and chickens
growing in the wall, how they got there, he never planted them,
must have been the previous tenant, did you know them,
what were they like,
his voice rising in volume and pitch
as we back away claiming
we are late for an errand, late for work,
anything we can think of
to get away from him,
the one we call the garden guy,
whose name we do not care to know.