The guy downstairs moved in recently.
Before him was a young woman;
we would nod and say hello, have a good day,
as we entered or exited our homes or cars.
This guy has upset my equilibrium:
he uses the harshest voice on his two small dogs.
I hear them bark when I walk by his door,
giving me sweet memories of Poops.
But then I hear him yell commands
breaking my heart that they are
confined with so much meanness.
I don’t know his story:
he is a young man who lives alone with his dogs.
Friends of mine live alone with their pets, but generally
they are older than him, past the relationships that have made
living alone with pets a comfort and not a consolation.
Maybe his pets are surrogates for someone he no longer has,
or a person he still dreams of meeting. I think, though,
that if he cannot be kind to the animals who depend on him
he should wait a long time.
Tone, I tell my students, is easy to hear in a voice while
harder to discern in text. It is harder still to know
what underlies the tone: the story, the narrative, the history.
But then I catch myself because it doesn’t matter:
your pain should not invade someone/something else.
We are here, we should be here, to provide peace.
He has brought me back to remembering the
voice of my ex-husband and how harsh it was
in tone and content. How good it is that
I no longer need to hear him; that
my scars have healed; that I can wonder
about someone else; that I am
not mired in bitterness and hatred.
But knowing that
others are in pain is painful.