"The Witch and Macduff Exit My Neighbor's House"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
March 23 2010 7:02 AM

"The Witch and Macduff Exit My Neighbor's House"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Kathryn Maris read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
.

My neighbor was a bitch
in Stoppard, a witch
in Shakespeare, a lawyer
on The Bill,
but she's "herself"
when she's over the wall
with her daughter,
my favorite child
next to my own,
who are friends with her one day
and not the next,
like when my son
accused her of stealing
a Gameboy cartridge,
and my daughter repeated
an awful thing
I say about the English,
that they're the rudest people 
on the planet.
But as for my neighbor:
I smile through tears
when she and her daughter
are over the wall
playing together
and I'm watching
from a location
akin to
a box seat.
She might have
a box seat, too—
my other neighbor
definitely does,
because she knows
everything I do.
All the world's a stage
and all the neighbors
merely players
with their exits,
like the one my neighbor made 
with Macduff
in the middle of the day,
a little too happy—
and I thought I knew the plot.
Every tear
I shed for her
is—what's that called?—
anagnorisis,
or just plain catharsis,
or moving on
from Aristotle,
there's always Freud,
who'd call this "projection."
Our houses sit
in a row,
all of them built
in the fashion of their time,
and you could make the mistake
of calling them
identical.
So when my neighbor
is with her daughter,
I try to grasp
her motivation,
dry my tears,
stand up straight,
enter the room
with the television,
smile and project,
"It's a lovely day!
Let's go out to the garden,
and have a play."

.

Correction, March 23, 2010: This poem originally referred to "MacDuff." The spelling of the character's name has been changed to the present version.

Kathryn Maris, author of The Book of Jobs, teaches creative writing at Kingston University and Morley College in London.

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