A Poem from Catherine Wiley

Stars and Stripes
by Catherine Wiley

I’ve called the cops on him,
friendly guy next door who sneaks
pork fat to my cat, cookies
to my daughter. He tends
with the vigilance of love
a red van hunkered on the curb,
paint flaked and pale U.S. flag
sealing the rear window. He sings,
then weeps when he’s had one
too many beers.

The night he swears to kill
his wife–sobs and curses
through the screen jangle me
from sleep–police come fast,
five white cars block the street,
two men vault the broken gate
to pound the door and wake
with a flashlight in his eyes
the old man whose house it is,
whose son.

Morning, I ask how she is
through the fence where she rests
an elbow; thumb caressing
her bluing cheek. She says
with disbelief that someone
called the cops, she thinks she might
know who, she’ll kick their ass.
Later in full sun and heat
a different neighbor stops.
“I wish they’d get it over with,”
she sighs, “and shoot each other so
the rest of us could sleep.”

Categories: POETRY | Leave a comment

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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