phren-z header logo

SCW Logo

Tree of Life Woodcut
Woodcut by Bridget Henry

Current Issue
Archived Issues

Neighborhood Watch
By Stephen Kessler

Some afternoons, after lunch, in summery weather when the sun is above the house leaving the front deck in the shade and blue light is radiating off the bay and Monterey is a purple profile sloping toward the Pacific in the distance, I like to sit outside with a smoke or a cool drink and ogle the neighborhood. It’s often quiet except for the song of a mockingbird, or the obnoxious scream of a leafblower down the street, or a sneaky Prius whose wheels on the asphalt are its only sound, or trios of teenagers yakking as they stroll past unaware of their incidental eavesdropper, or the occasional solo squawker on a cellphone obliviously disturbing the peace. Dog walkers with their plastic shit-collecting sacks, sleek biciclistas whizzing by, couples of various ages getting their exercise, free-range cats, motorcycle riders, kids on skateboards make this street like any other in a smallish town where people can sometimes see and be seen outside the shells of their cars.  Way down the coast the smokestacks of the power plant pump their white puffs cloudlike into the sky. Doing nothing is a fine art learned from long hours of looking, listening, sniffing the smell of Brussels sprouts breezing in from up the coast, associating that smell with previous seasons whose seductive allure is bound with the pull of youth on increasingly seasoned recollection that can’t quite hold what it lost, cannot collect what it recalls. When the cops pay a call on the kids next door, I’m merely curious, no longer worried about my own suspicious activities, a sure sign of maturity. Abandoned shopping carts left on Mission Street, just a few blocks away, speak a language of other lost things. Sirens of the Highway Patrol are swearing out loud that accidents happen, and the exhaust of buses and trucks is settling subtly on every exposed surface. Who else would pause to observe such atmospheric disturbances but a pure voyeur, a self-taught street-watcher, a freelance vigilante, a neighbor with nothing better to do than keep an eye out for whatever might rise to amaze. 

Stephen Kessler

Stephen Kessler is a poet, translator, essayist, editor and novelist.  He is the author of eight books and chapbooks of original poetry, most recently Burning Daylight; fourteen books of literary translation, most recently Desolation of the Chimera by Luis Cernuda, winner of the 2010 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets; a novel, The Mental Traveler; and the essay collections Moving Targets: On Poets, Poetry & Translation and The Tolstoy of the Zulus: On Culture, Arts & Letters. He was a founding editor and publisher of Alcatraz, an international journal (1979-1985), and The Sun, a Santa Cruz newsweekly (1986-1989), among other independent publishing ventures.  Since 1999 he is the editor of the quarterly literary newspaper The Redwood Coast Review.  He is also the editor and principal translator of The Sonnets by Jorge Luis Borges, published in April 2010 by Penguin Classics.


Spring 2012

Elizabeth McKenzie
Fiction 2
Fiction 3
Fiction 4

Stephen Kessler
Nonfiction 2
Nonfiction 3

Amber Coverdale Sumrall
Poetry 2
Poetry 3
Poetry 4

Plays & Monologues
Wilma Marcus Chandler
Monologue 2

  Current Issue/Home || Archive || FloodLight || About || Submit || Contact
Copyright © 2011 Santa Cruz Writes - All Rights Reserved