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Taylor Building B, Unit 103

by Dutch Godshalk

Here there is no quiet. The secret motions 
of next door neighbors are betrayed 
by dime-thin shared walls, which 
in turn betray my motions to them. 
We are opened books upon tenement 
shelves, doing laundry, singing, stumbling 
home drunk in the night through screeching 
third-floor doors and down spooky creaking 
corridors, running the dishwasher, running 
the shower, flushing the toilet, making love 
without regard (as it should be made).
Here there is no quiet in the parking lot 
smoking by the broken hopeless Buick 
as through opened lighted windows unseen 
toddlers cry at bedtime hours for withheld 
joys, and couples feud to the sound 
of their television feuding too. 
Rows and rows of apartment buildings 
and never an empty parking spot;
from the sky 
it must look like massive sutures 
in a bruised and useless earth. 
But we so close choose to stiff-arm 
one another in hallways passing. 
We neighbors reside apart, shrouded 
in the tremulous base of pirated music
while in the dark the undercarriages 
of homeward cars scrape against
shoddy speed bumps. 
You can't see the stars from 
these lighted grounds. The grass 
is sealed off and segregated, and
the trees all pay rent. 
Here there is no quiet, 
but that becomes 
its own sort of quiet: 
the movement of water in the walls, 
the yawning of the fridge, the hearing 
walking of unmet neighbors, the jostling 
and locking of life's latches. 
We don't know each other. 
Never do we stop to chat, to comment 
benignly on the brightness of the moon 
or the headline scrawled in the folded 
plastic-wrapped news on the stoop.
We hear each other through our 
dime-thin shared walls a laughing
shouting white noise ignored like the
skittering settling of hot water
in arterial pipes. We pay no mind.
Here in the din of struggling 
stacked America I found the heart 
of it – a community of strangers, 
shoulder to shoulder, back to back, 
with only our belches 
uniting us. 

 

Dutch Godshalk is an award-winning news and features editor for Digital First Media Philly. His words have appeared in The Guardian, Men’s Health, Time Out London, Free Enterprise, Philadelphia Stories, and Apiary Magazine. He lives in Kensington. Follow him on Twitter: @DutchGodshalk.

 

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