A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Matthew Guenette

lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin.

His first book, Sudden Anthem, won the 2007 American Poetry Journal Book Prize from Dream Horse Press.

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The Alley

I’m in the kitchen with the lights off.
Outside it’s Evansville and humid summer
dusk. I pull a chair to the window
so I can better hear the drug-dealing
couple next door. They’re in the yard swearing
like cops. The one I’ll call “Jen” has come home
to find “Laura” “sucking some hillbilly’s dick.”
As the argument glazes and cracks,
a shadow, the hillbilly I guess,
wanders out back down the alley like a ghost.
A few weeks ago it was filled
with white light, men in space suits, yellow tape
and vans as they busted the lab.
Another time I came home
just as they were pulling the sheet over a body
in the weeds. I found out later
the guy had been gut shot doing a robbery.
He’d made it over a mile before
dying beneath my window—that’s where
Jen and Laura are now, calling each other
cunts and trading slaps in the dark.
Streetlight squints through the sycamores.
Cicada buzz swells in the trees.
Way into the night one of the girls
is still sitting on the porch. “I love you,”
she’s crying. And a pathetic
“Please come back.” It’s complicated:
feeling sorry for her and feeling
sorry for myself, sitting there
way into the night, vigilant and very much alive.