by Patricia Ace

Alert to the arrival of ambulance or hearse,
they appear clutching casseroles and condolence
at times of unexpected crisis – sudden loss,
marital breakdown, prolonged illness.
United by postcodes and drying greens,
power-cuts, stairwells and entry-phones,
they share hedges, driveways and tax bands,
the wax and wane of house prices.
Divided by bolting leylandii, cockerels,
dog waste and drum-kits, lawn-mowing at dawn,
the inadvertent toileting of capricious cats,
they watch over your comings and goings.
They know the state of your underwear,
the brick that guards your back-door key,
the undisclosed smoking taking place in the shed,
that your grown-up son is back, lodging upstairs.
We must have you over for a drink they say
but then you don’t see them for months.
Your key hangs untouched on a hook in their hall.
They have your number, but they don’t know it by heart.