about the masked bandit that has been pillaging my garden
sometime in the pre-dawn hours when I’m not there to guard it, gnawing

wedges from the zucchini, and leaving half-eaten tomatoes in the bed
as compost. He’s a menace to the neighborhood, and I can’t get rid

of him, despite the trap and the light sensors set to send him
packing. I imagine him there laughing at me, him and his piercing

gaze of friends. They remind me of the neighbor next door, the one
who sits on his porch staring at me while I hide behind my mirrored

sunglasses and floppy hat, pretending not to notice him while I weed
and sow, and hope he won’t recognize me if we end up in the same aisle

at Stop and Shop, the same guy who spits obscenities
through our bedroom window in the middle of the night, so that I now,

knee-jerk, reach for the scissors I hide under the bed just in case,
before convincing myself he’s harmless so I can fall back asleep, while

my husband, half-deaf, never stirs. There was that time he showed up
at synagogue for the Sabbath service, and I started shaking, sweating

and panting like a raccoon with its built-in cooling system, my body
on red alert before I even realized it was him, and I stayed away

for months, conceding that he needed that sanctuary more than I,
generous in a selfish kind of way, even though I was sure he

wasn’t Jewish and that he’d followed me there as a taunt or warning.
I went to the police, knowing how useless they can be,

or odious, at worst, the proverbial foxes guarding sitting ducks.
My friend Marty, a P.I., sleuthed the court transcripts,

but I never opened the attachments he sent, and then I lost that email
when my server crashed, and I just heard last week that Marty died,

so I’m thinking again about everything I don’t know about my neighbor
next door except that he spent twelve years in jail for rape, an unusually

long time was all Marty had granted. Growing up, I’d climb
into my mother’s closet to run my hands over the soft stole she kept

wrapped in tissue paper, striped like Davy Crockett’s cap,
when probably all I really wanted was a furry cat, or, later, a boyfriend

who would love me back after all that petting was done.
When our mother died, my sister and I knew better than to take the furs,

mink earmuffs and a beaver coat, even though they were already
dead, and, as far as I knew, PETA warriors don’t practice the art

of resurrection. So I wonder now what it would feel like to wear
that stole around my neck in the Berkshire winters, everyone

fixed on the furred superhero with a Gideon Bible as her weapon
of choice and Bradley Cooper’s voice, John Lennon trailing her,

blowing harmonica. Dexterous, she is able to open complex locks
in a single bid, but is compulsive about washing her hands

like a Lady Macbeth. I last saw her climbing headfirst down a tree,
just to show off, her hind feet rotated backwards, until she didn’t know

if she was coming or going, and I, without a crystal ball
in which to gaze, didn’t know who was predator and who was prey.

 

 

 

 

Pamela Wax is a rabbi and a poet. Her essays on Judaism, spirituality, and women’s issues have been published broadly, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pensive Journal, Heron Tree, Green Ink Poetry, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Paterson Literary Review. A labyrinth aficionado, her first volume of poetry is aptly entitled Walking the Labyrinth, forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2022. She lives in the Bronx, NY, and the Northern Berkshires of Massachusetts.