“My Neighbor Cleans His Gutters” by Dan Roche

Virgin Joy by Jordan James

Bad hip and all, he’s on the roof, scooting
away from the ladder, reaching
down for handfuls of blackened leaves,
fluttering them fifteen feet to the grass.
He’s not a neighbor at whom I could yell:  
What are you thinking?! I stand by  
the kitchen window, coffee and phone,
debating whether to rush out
when he plummets or call 911.
I am the only person who will see him
land like an overload of wet snow.
What fools old men become!
Weakness overtakes us,
says the psalm, and we shall be chastened.
But my neighbor did not chastise me last summer
when I, the edge of oldness, painted
our tall house, stretched atop an extension ladder
to reach the highest clapboard, the eave’s underside.
He stands, edges up the roof, disappears
beyond the ridge long enough to not be
my problem anymore.
I imagine he is flinging more deadness
into the late-fall air. He re-summits,
balances along the pitch,
retrieving every leaf clinging to a far shingle,
reluctant to ever come down.
I am as angry with him as if he has already fallen.


Dan Roche’s poems have appeared in Stone Canoe and JAMA and his nonfiction has appeared in Fourth Genre, The North American Review, Chautauqua, Stone Canoe, The Journal, and Under the Sun. He has also published the memoirs Great Expectation: a Father’s Diary (The University of Iowa Press) and Love’s Labors (Riverhead).

Jordan James’ fiction, poetry, and art has been published in Cagibi, Throats to the Sky, Product, Kalopsia, The Song Between our Stars, The Robert Frost Review, and Poet’s Choice, with works forthcoming in The Westchester Review. He is currently a graduate instructor at USM working on his PhD in Creative Writing.