our neighbours poem

our neighbours face appears above the fence – hello. our neighbours have a chat with us. our neighbours learn our names. our neighbours become our friends. our neighbours landlord thinks the market is ripe. our neighbours are told to leave. our neighbours try to buy their house at an exorbitant price to keep their kids in the school zone. our neighbours are denied. our neighbours move out. our neighbour paul calls me paul, our neighbour paul calls our other neighbour paul too. our neighbour cuts our grass, dumps the leftovers into our messy yard, leaves a bag of toys on our doorstep. our neighbours lend us a shovel we keep and lend out ourselves. our neighbours lend us a blender, give us kids clothes, and say to me – how are you? you look tired. our neighbour gives me fifty bucks to cut her grass and trim her hedges, invites me in for lemonade and tv, the tennis is on. our neighbour sings along in italian on saturday mornings and says – how are you darlin, buutifuu gerl! to my daughter. our neighbour has been in her house 55 years, raised her kids here, worked in a factory, her husband a waiter on lygon st, he died, his pin-up girl posters still hang in their garage, i use his tools, the roads were dirt when they moved in, she doesnt like our paperbark tree and says – dis tree noh gudt! too much messy! because her backyard is paved and she tires of sweeping the leaves up – ill speak to our landlord i say. our neighbours have a whatsapp group. our neighbours have dinner together on the nature strip. our neighbour is a dog sitter and breeder who yells a lot, the dogs howl into the night, she doesnt like how ive parked my car and i dont like how she speaks to me, we arent cordial. our neighbours are watching neighbours on tv. our neighbours are learning piano, its greensleeves waltzing matilda coldplay, now theyre learning trombone too, their plum tree hangs over the fence and we eat the fruit. our neighbours are home. our neighbour climbs the wobbly fence and wants to chat, tomorrow is her tenth birthday – double digits! i say. our neighbour goes away and we water their plants and when we go away they water ours. our neighbour is missing, we hear she has cancer, has chemo, we are fingers crossed. our neighbour is on the roof doing repairs and is peering into our yard, sometimes hes up there because he has a telescope. our neighbour doesnt have a name. our neighbour is in the scouts, helps me break into our house when im locked out without a shirt on, the wind slammed me out, together we finesse the window open, i give her boost, shes 9, she climbs right in. our neighbour is going camping, is packing their car, pulling a rope, truckies knot, loaded roof racks. our neighbour has chronic pain, is in and out of hospital, is often in bed. our neighbour says – if you need a babysitter im good with kids – and invites us over for dinner, her front door is always open and our daughter runs in to play dress-ups, piano, and feed the chickens. our neighbour is 26 and our daughter is 2 and they are best friends. our neighbour pours us a drink, brings us cake, introduces us to her parents. our neighbour walks into our backyard. our neighbours rhubarb plant is relocated into our veggie patch and does well. our neighbours wheelbarrow is made of plastic. our neighbours chickens get mauled by foxes and we explain this to our kid. our neighbours lend us a hiking pack and walking poles. our neighbour is a musician, gives us their cd and when theyre away, their back window is open and i climb in and borrow their guitar. our neighbours sit in their front yard, the sign of a good share house. our neighbours wife dies, he comes fishing with us, lets us cook for him, has a separate washing machine to tenderise octopus, he is 90 now and says – you like cetrioli? – and i say – yes! – not knowing what it is and he gives me four cucumbers in a plastic bag. our neighbour says – i know you like a hot chilli, heya tayk it! our neighbour hits puberty, gets a dog, the dog gets pregnant, the dog goes away to give birth. our neighbour kisses her boyfriend after school in the park and i see them. our neighbour takes long service leave, helps me cut a tree branch, shares their preferred pronouns. our neighbour lends our neighbour a mulcher and together we mulch and talk in between the searing noise. our neighbours are having a bbq, its a birthday party, they let us know beforehand. our neighbours have a trampoline in their front yard. our neighbour grows shrubs and flowers on her nature strip, everyone who comes by is impressed. our neighbours house is full of vintage textiles. our neighbour watches traffic go by, puts witches hats on the street in front of their house, washes all the cars in the neighbourhood for 30 bucks each, hes a hustler, gets a lift off me, brings me a bucket of m&ms, says – nice day! – says – you car look dirty! says – you work late today!? – says – you bring me some of that turkish bread, ok!? – our neighbour drives an uber he keeps immaculately clean. our neighbour says – what can you do i no complain! our neighbour asks me to be a reference for her visa application. our neighbour has loud sex. our neighbour has raucous parties, drum n bass from midday friday till sunday afternoon. our neighbour runs down the stairwell without saying hi, is an overworked teacher. our neighbour waters their balcony plants and it dribbles onto my head as i hang the clothes. our neighbour doesnt bring their bins in. our neighbours waters break. our neighbours pipes burst. our neighbour brings our bins in. our neighbour parks in our carspot. our neighbour leaves boxes of cosmetics on the footpath and we take some body oil. our neighbours are ripping bongs, are gaming, are squatters. our neighbour owns our house, subdivided and build a fortress next-door. our neighbour has two cars, a lambikini and a commodore, takes me for a ride in the commodore to his warehouse full of pinball machines and a ’57 Chevy to find spare keys in metal drawers after a gust of wind locks me out. our neighbour pours his heart out to me in the car, says – my lifes gone to shit bro, my dad died, my mum died, my woman betrayed me – he misses his mum, i put my hand on his shoulder, he has his exs stuff in garbage bags in the back seat, he talks fast, drives reckless, likes speed. our neighbour doesnt respond to our texts, were having a party and want his blessing, later his family arrive dressed in black. our neighbours are buddhist monks, have a high brick fence. our neighbours stop to chat when we sit on our front lawn. our neighbours give us lemons. our neighbour lets me into her house after ive locked myself out, has many erotic sculptures, gives me tea and biscuits before i jump the fence. our neighbour has lived here 57 years, is deaf, we crank the music higher. our neighbour was my housemate who moved out to move in with her boyfriend a few doors down. our neighbours and i make ice cream. our neighbours sister has just moved to melbourne. our neighbours sister wants to come over for a drink. our neighbours sister knocks on the door and i open it, i say – hello, come in, do you want a drink? our neighbour has a garage sale and i buy their shirt. our neighbour finds a scrunched-up piece of paper hurled over the fence by our other neighbour that reads – have a good party, enjoy yourselves, enjoy your youth, fuck everything that moves!!! our neighbour is a widow whose husband taught my mum at school. our neighbour stands outside and watches the street go by, sometimes he carries home a slab of VB on his shoulder. our neighbour has a baby, has another baby, has a third baby. our neighbour has a sign on their fence that reads – no to inappropriate developments. our neighbour tests the market, sells their house, buys their house, rents their house, renovates their house, demolishes their house, develops the land, builds units, sells the units, keeps one for themselves. our neighbour makes the money. our neighbour bangs on the floorboards when i play music. our neighbour smiles her golden tooth. our neighbour stays up late smoking on their balcony. our neighbour is a bakery. our neighbour takes in the delivery guy quickly. our neighbour is a police station. our neighbour is a house of students. our neighbour is my best friend now. our neighbour and i kiss after pot-luck dinner. our neighbour and i play soccer together, she puts her hand on my thigh in the back of a taxi, wants to sleep in my bed tonight. our neighbour offers me a ciggie, pours us some wine. our neighbour sleeps in my bed, lays in it while i make breakfast, has a boyfriend overseas, is in the shower, is on my mind, walks out wet. our neighbour is a doctor. our neighbour doesnt know that i jumped the fence to get my ball and their dog bit me. our neighbour borrows our surfboard. our neighbour becomes leader of the greens. our neighbour is an electrician, calls me boy. our neighbour knocks on the door to play with me and my mum says no, probably because hes a bit older and rides a bmx with a low seat and has a rats tail. our neighbours dont share a fence with us. our neighbours house smells like cigarettes, like curry, like roast, like a chip shop. our neighbours are celebrating ramadan and the street is full of cars. our neighbour collects triumph cars in their yard. our neighbours are greek. our neighbours are macedonian, we are not, but my parents say we understand one another anyway. our neighbours have me over, give me lifts to school, their daughter is a year older than me and i love her. our neighbours let me jump the fence and play footy cricket soccer and basketball, their grandma lives with them, they give me yum lebanese food, we make tapes on their stereo, throw water bombs. our neighbours dad works night shift in the tyre factory so we gotta be quiet. our neighbour jump starts our car. our neighbour waves to us. our neighbour brings over clothes when i am born. our neighbours say hello.

Image: Jay Wennington

Ender Başkan

Ender Başkan lives and works in Narrm/Melbourne, Australia. He is a poet, bookseller and co-founder of Vre Books press. His book A Portrait of Alice as a Young Man was published in 2019. He is the winner of the 2021 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize.

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