American Life in Poetry

The subdivision; it's all around us. Here Nancy Botkin of Indiana presents a telling picture of life in such a neighborhood, the parents downstairs in their stultifying dailiness, the children enjoying their youth under the eaves before the passing years force them to join the adults.



All the roofs sloped at the same angle.

The distance between the houses was the same.

There were so many feet from each front door to the curb. My father mowed the lawn straight up and down and then diagonally.

And then he lined up beer bottles on the kitchen table.

We knew them only in summer when the air passed through the screens. The neighbor girls talked to us across the great divide: attic window to attic window. We started with our names.

Our whispers wobbled along a tightrope,

and below was the rest of our lives.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2006 by Nancy Botkin. Reprinted from Poetry East, Spring, 2006, by permission of the author, whose full-length book of poems, Parts That Were Once Whole, is available from Mayapple Press, 2007.

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