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William Walsh

The Old Neighborhood

My mother found a job selling velour jumpsuits
to Cuban women at Judy's Outlet, long hours

and low pay. At a strip-mall pizza shop,
they short-changed every customer, me included,

then apologized for the simple mistake.
I waited one night in the parking lot, smashed

his face into the side mirror then groped his pockets
for what he had. Across the street from our house, a man

with a beautiful daughter shot his family. . . then himself.
A girl at a record store, for no reason at all, showed me her breasts.

My dad sold booze at ABC Liquor. At Christmas
a sailor on leave walked in and handed him $3000

to hold for the weekend. Just like that.
He fanned the bills on the kitchen table

like a sacrament, the answer to all our problems.
I thumbed the bills, shook them back and forth,

smelled and counted them, ruffled them against my ear.
We could have run away, packed up, and skedaddled back home

if not for my father holding close to his chest, his word.
Monday evening, the sailor returned. My father handed him

the thick roll. "Want to count it?"
The sailor shook his head no. Down the street

there was high school dropout trying to impress
the neighborhood kids, thinking it would be cool

to snort anti-freeze, which he did.
His lungs froze and he died on the sidewalk.




William Walsh has published five books: Speak So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern
Writers, The Ordinary Life of a Sculptor, The Conscience of My Other Being, Under the Rock
Umbrella: Contemporary American Poets from 1951-1977, and most recently David Bottoms: Critical
Essays and Interviews (McFarland). His work has appeared in the AWP Chronicle, Five Points, the
Flannery O'Connor Review, the James Dickey Review, The Kenyon Review, the Michigan Quarterly
Review, the North American Review, Poets & Writers, Rattle, Shenandoah, Slant, the Valparaiso
Review, and elsewhere. He is also a world-renown photographer.