The Wall That Was Asking For It

The screaming concrete of me,
windowpanes catching neighbors,

the cinematics of their aghast, the promise
of protection failure machine gunning

sidewalk cracks, of vindication ecstasy,
of tomorrow’s walls—of not me, again.

Like a cup of sugar, neighbors lend me
their disapproving eyes on me,

an able body coasting the battlefield,
defying employability on a skateboard

as if tax dollars were compostable or
the avant garde harvests of Jeffersonian

wealth managers or what reverie raises
the AM radio walls of their uniform

silence and surveillance. De Tocquevillian
neighborhood watch, town councils

protesting the genocide of independence
in the form of failing property values, or

one’s ability to build walls, build liberty
proportional to our, to their calls for help.

A suburb is a complex of walls.
A suburb is violence and its invitation.

I appear invited, but am merely the bumper
sticker of invitation; tender, self-hating wall,

self-portrait in the minivan’s rearview mirror,
eyes—the cemented electrons of nuclear family,

a life our vandal selves swore cum oaths against—
blinking distress signals. Bleeding-heart wall,

Enlightenment wall whose politics is immaterial,
whose skateboard is a toy or spine?

I walk it. An airplane purrs somewhere
the bark of a deadbolt. The news remains

perpendicular to its gravity: one law
for the laundry, an axis of throw pillows.

Am I my news? Then hear this neighbor:
The conspiracy is that I was born

to be horrified yet curated like a gently
folded napkin before a dinner party
hiding the bomb—
the wall that is asking for it—
kick-flipping with my other spatula,
slow-motion shirt arguing against resistance

into sidewalk into quiet, which is the sound
of the anger of nothing changing.


Kevin Riel is from San Diego. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Vinyl, the Iowa Review, Prelude, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He is a PhD candidate at Claremont Graduate University and editor at Foothill: a journal of poetry.