The Good Neighbour

The Good Neighbour

Somewhere along this street, unknown to me,
behind a maze of apple trees and stars,
he rises in the small hours, finds a book
and settles at a window or a desk
to see the morning in, alone for once,
unnamed, unburdened, happy in himself.

I don't know who he is; I've never met him
walking to the fish-house, or the bank,
and yet I think of him, on nights like these,
waking alone in my own house, my other neighbours
quiet in their beds, like drowsing flies.

He watches what I watch, tastes what I taste:
on winter nights, the snow; in summer, sky.
He listens for the bird lines in the clouds
and, like that ghost companion in the old
explorers' tales, that phantom in the sleet,
fifth in a party of four, he's not quite there,
but not quite inexistent, nonetheless;

and when he lays his book down, checks the hour
and fills a kettle, something hooded stops
as cell by cell, a heartbeat at a time,
my one good neighbour sets himself aside,
and alters into someone I have known:
a passing stranger on the road to grief,
husband and father; rich man; poor man; thief.


from The Good Neighbour (Cape, 2005), copyright © John Burnside 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Where next?

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.

Recordings

Buy album £0.00

1De Humani Corporis Fabrica

2Taxonomy

3In Kansas

4Pentecost

5Koi

6The Good Neighbour

7By Kautokeino

9Shekinah

10At Menno-Hof

11Milgram's 'Shock Generator'

12Harunobu: 'Catching Fireflies'

13Field Mice

14After Lucretius

15Heat Wave

16Animals

17History

18Bleik

19Stargazy

8Sense Data

Books by John Burnside