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  • Spiritual Introduction to the Neighborhood
  • Tyler Barton (bio)

Claw Street

One once witnessed, in the quick dark of an autumn night, two youths coming down Claw on skateboards, holding hockey sticks against the asphalt, producing startling orange sparks. Idling at the stop sign, one watched and worried as the pair tore downhill at speeds in the neighborhood of twenty miles per hour. The skaters reached the intersection, veering to flank one’s Honda. Somewhere, barking dogs hushed. Sometimes, one must close one’s eyes and let the world pass by is the advice here, though this (one swears) is not that type of literature. The youths, thank heaven, simply kept cruising. From the rearview mirror, their sparks resembled long, ignited leads running to a single pile of dynamite in the distance.

That, or stars fallen into town.

Prushing Street

Here, in this divot on the Minnesota River Valley, resides a gray squirrel with half a tail who thinks it’s whole. Sipping morning tea, one might witness her—tail no longer than a flosser—attempt to leap from a power line to a shed roof and miss. She’s lived here fifteen years, well past the average rodent life expectancy. Understand: what’s average does not apply here. Every season is wind. Welcome. Watch. Listen. One need not live here for over fifty years in order to see something sacred.

It can happen any moment.

Brunt Way

A stand of bamboo grows all along this lane. One may admire it but mustn’t ever enter. Through the shoots sits a farmhouse owned by a childless couple who, rumors say, use the grass in perverse ways. [End Page 6] Split down the center, oven-warmed to bake in give, they take the branches to their bedroom. On quiet nights one might hear hot wood striking flesh—the pleasure cries, the keening for God. It is a feat to find sleep here.

It comes from so far away.

Kroll Circle

Here lies the headquarters for Tails of Mending, the dog foster service owned and operated by neighborhood royalties, Jack and Reba Mondell. One might find one’s house one day more or less empty and wish for the company of a canine. Say one’s partner, long allergic to animals, has passed from a disease no doctor can pronounce. One might telephone Tails of Mending and ask to meet a dog. A shivering Chihuahua. At Triangle Park. As swinging children call out insults—Taco Bell! Taco Bitch!—one might fall in love with something so fearful and delicate, with whiskers longer than her very head. One might abide the mandatory home inspection T of M provides to ensure that an adopter’s domicile is secure, clean, and absent any signs of mania that might inhibit a mending pet’s flourishing. One might feel as though this needless visit has gone swimmingly, ending with a warm handshake and Jack’s promise of an e-mail. Could it be that all life requires is a witness? Another pair of eyes nearby and aware. Maybe one’s hopes heighten, but that e-mail never comes. One might lay awake nights, listening to the tantra of bruising flesh, wondering what one’s error was. One might, weeks later, see the same mending Chihuahua defecate on a tulip at the corner of Claw. One might call and call the headquarters on Kroll. Or show up with fists balled. Jack might deliver some tired version of “it’s not you, it’s me,” where one has been judged “likely to be unfulfilled” by the company of a Chihuahua. One should not cry. One should not buy new furniture, or recaulk the bathtub twice. Return the size extra-small Ultra-Paws Durable Dog Boots to PetCo. One does not, honestly, know what one should do. Try writing a cautionary review?

Or a breathing exercise?

Griffin and Andomar Avenues

Here one finds two kinds of yard signs. The first—green, blue, orange—bears the same message in three languages, the gist of which: all are welcome; love your neighbors. It’s a good sign, though a bit proud—never easy to land square on the side of morality without a...


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pp. 6-9
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