Home / Columns / Poetry / LANDLORD LAMENTATIONS


Jan. 3, 2014
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The tenant downstairs

says Carlos is in the Spanish Mafia.

They deal drugs and scrawl graffiti

under the bridge outside of town.

Even when she’s home

the woman across the hall

double locks her door,

ignores what she hears, what she sees.

Carlos complains about the lack of heat,

leaves his windows open all winter

so the smoke, the smell of grass, will dissipate.

On the night before he skips

he pushes his girlfriend down the stairs

a baluster breaks; the girl cries.

He tells her he has other girlfriends, many;

she must understand, as we all must,

finally, in the end.  I listen to stories

other tenants tell me,

imagine their lives, his life, what

it means to live like that.  If I understood

any of this I would be someone else,

someone in a different life; what would I learn,

what would I know?  I could repent

a life like that, and my repentance

would lift the sorrow of the world.

I clean the walls of his apartment, fill

chinks in the plaster, like bullet holes,

find the face of Jesus in a stain

bleeding down the walls.  Jesus is in tears;

we’re both in tears.  We all want

the same thing: to look into the face of God

without shame, to earn eternal salvation, to get the rent

every month, always paid on time.















Dale Ritterbusch’s most recent contribution to the military-industrial-educational complex involves a tour of duty as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Air Force Academy.  Currently he is performing a similar mission as Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  He is the author of Far From the Temple of Heaven and Lessons Learned: Poetry of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath


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