There’s a corner of my lot where five properties meet.
It’s the least maintained part of any of our yards.
Every time I’m down in that far corner where the weeds abound,
I can make out the history of property surveys in the ¾-inch-pipes
pounded into the ground as each lot is sold and resold.
Some of the pipes this morning look newer than others.
The newer ones have little colorful red or pink flags topping them
that sag, so unlike cheerful flags waving proudly over peaceful countries.
For the strips of fabric or plastic that are still there – some are not-
and for the ones that still have their color – some do not –
they slump down over forgotten and abandoned ground, almost as if
they’re leftover flags a boy scout didn’t plant on veterans’ graves,
still sealed up in their cardboard boxes where there’s no air to breathe.
We’re not a tightly-knit neighborhood, and that’s obvious in this corner.
If we were our great-grandparents’ generation, that corner would be the most impeccable
of all our yards because we’d take immense pride in helping our other four neighbors
to enjoy this nowadays demilitarized zone of common disrespectful neglect,
untouchable as the startling sick who lie begging in some third-world country street.
This morning, with a heavy heart, a sickle, and trash bags aplenty,
I wade into this no man’s land and clear the wild weeds of this twelve-foot-square plot.
I’m the only one who does this anymore, and if you count five to ten years
as regular clearing, then you could say I’m the constant gardener of this eyesore.
The several larger stones, once they’re laid bare, are beautiful,
and you can see how, when the owners originally marked out the properties,
back when neighbors talked to each other and helped each other out,
that they placed these rocks in the area as pre-¾-inch pipe markers,
giving a general, and aesthetic, idea of where the five came together.
That was in the 1920s, when folks cared less about boundaries,
and more about common ground and fellowship, general goodwill
seemingly held up as a higher value than greed or isolation,
so I clear the weeds that grow a foot over into each of the other four lots
as a gesture to that time when all five owners believed we were part of a neighborhood.