Selections: "Neighbors on Elizabeth Street"

by Katharyn Howd Machan

They understand each other, these two houses:
worn wood painted once, twice, thrice
then let to weather where it will, hurricanes’
kiss, rain’s promise. Porches down and porches
up, balconies, storm-shuttered windows,
screens against jewel-winged beetles, bats
that might settle, flap. Ghosts are always
allowed, of course, for so many have died
or been buried: the backyard of one is a song
of bones; the other’s garden hosts ashes.
Parrots thrive among tall palms next to where
a cat sleeps, dreaming: her stripes reach
far back in time, before the third house fell
to builders clean as cut new trees dragged in
for perfect silent blinding walls.


Katharyn Howd Machan was born in Woodbury, Connecticut. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and textbooks, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, and in 30 collections, most recently Belly Words: Poems of Dance (Split Oak Press, 2009) and When She’s Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009). A professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, in 2002 she was named Tompkins County’s first Poet Laureate.

Photo from Ithaca College, cover photo from the David Rumsey Map Collection.