Abut

My neighbor and I had a disagreement about a section of garden that abutted his property. It was my garden, and my trellis in particular that sparked the disagreement.

Our houses are close together. All houses in this neighborhood are close together. There is not much room to speak of, no sideyards certainly, limited backyards. About the only place to grow a real garden is in the front yard, so I grew my garden in the front yard, with a wooden lattice I built myself running the length of it. On it I grow tomatoes and, one summer, grapes. I grow a lot of them, and the trellis is tall.

There is not much room between us, as I said, and every morning he would come out while I was nose deep in my beautiful soil, sun hat perched at a jaunty tilt upon my head, trowel in hand, and he would say to me, “This trellis is too high. I can’t see over it.”

This is what he said. He tried to get the county to make me cut the trellis down. They sent a man out to measure my trellis. I served him tea and cake, and then he went back to the county seat to compare his measurements to the acceptable standards for neighborhood gardens. According to my neighbor, it was too high, and that is all he would say, whether I was out there, gardening, or not. He couldn’t see over it.

This is what he said, but I think the reason he wanted me to cut down the trellis was because I would climb it in the evening and read poetry to his wife. She was not a handsome woman. I would sit at work all day and write her poetry about her muddy eyes, her oblong smile, and then, after supper, I would climb my trellis and tap on her window. She would open it, and I would say,

“Mathilda, your derriere is not so sweet,
it is rather like a lumpy pumpkin.
But your smiles are thick as vegetable peat,
well, that’s somethin’.”

She seemed to like these poems. I would not climb the trellis every day, just on ones when there were few customers at work. On a particularly rainy day, when almost no one came in, I wrote a fittingly soupy verse. In a blue poncho, and goggles, I climbed the trellis as it swayed in the wind, gray sky on my shoulders, and knocked on her window. She took a moment to open it, then she unfurled a black umbrella and held it over her head.

Words blotting in the rain, I read,

“Where has all the sunshine gone?
Mud has filled my gardening lawn.
Your hair is like straw, and dry.
The blemished moon is like your thighs.
The two of you are bowls of cream, in the sky.”

Though it was quite soggy by the time I was done with it, she smiled, and extended her hand for the poem. I gave it to her and said my goodbye, then made the creaky, clammy climb back down.

Her husband says the trellis is too high, but people don’t always say what they mean.

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