Published on Academy of American Poets (

The neighbor’s buddy watching my screen through the window

Because the tube is turned to the window, the neighbor’s buddy         coughs
a cough of pigeons. a hack of grackle. a bird out the window. It’s         like

the neighbor’s buddy on my ledge, smoking. The neighbor’s                 chum in the blinds,
the eyes that peer, the eyes that open. propped and sunglassed.         a kind

of smoking blackbird, an inveterate

tombirder. His leather wings are splayed. his rock in the cold.            He has one foot on ice porch
and one foot wiggle. one foot rockerbird. a one-foot band. His            cough is the cough

of the myriad smoker, the murder of smoker. There is quiver of         murder. His cough
is the cough of a white boy, northern. of a Michigan leather. of           the white boy jacket,

his leather like hair. The air is gray like cig smoke. gray like ash.
gray with the onset of northern porchlike spring and its                       porchstep rain. Wet

and snowy, the neighbor, his buddy in leather. like me, in                     leather. In a wet snow,
rocking. in a porch band leather. leather in April. April wet and         still, one foot to the other.


Copyright © 2016 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was lonely living in northern Michigan, I found myself staring at my neighbors, watching their lives. Up there, sometimes I confused the people with the deer, with birds. When I was writing this poem I was thinking: but this bird smokes. And he’s white.”
—francine j. harris


francine j. harris

francine j. harris’ third collection is Here is the Sweet Hand (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). She is an Associate Professor of English at University of Houston in Texas, where she lives.

Date Published: 2016-04-07

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