My neighbors do puzzles
in the common room.
They do the fringes first
piece by piece
multi colored houses
castles on mountains
slide into place
those imaginary childhoods,
the colors too bright.
A little pond beyond the picket fence.

Alice found her son on Halloween.
A gunshot wound to the head
and the mess of a mother’s love
on the sheets, the walls, and the windows.

Sally raised six daughters
running a day care center at home,
small shoes lined up at her doorway
as frantic mothers always late
pick up children in holding cells
not their own.

I can hear Betty scream at night,
the smell of marijuana from my open window,
smoke falls on my cactus plants
just flowering for Christmas.
There is nothing floral here.
I’ve learned my killing of flowers is neglect.

As I stop to say hello.
I think about other landscapes.
The exhaust of cars on fresh snow.
dead children sledding down concrete walls.

When I leave them
say my goodbyes
and open my front door
reports from Democracy now
echoes down the hallway,
160,000 dead Americans
and a no mask riot.

Nothing slips into place.
The shape of nostalgia
piece by piece
frames a finished puzzle
dismantled and put away
to begin a new.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Linda Quinlan

Linda Quinlan's book of poetry, Chelsea Creek was published in 2019 by Brickhouse Press. She won the Wicked Women's Award and has published in many journals, some of which include, Sinister Wisdom, The New Orleans Review and the North Carolina Literary Review.