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The House We Didn’t Buy

The House We Didn’t Buy
I often pass it  –  that house we didn’t buy:
a five-barred gate, a tar-washed gable end,
a flush of roses swagged nostalgically
over one window.  Sometimes  a cat
sits bib-faced, smugly proprietorial
in the porch.  Sometimes children’s toys
are set out on the lawn –  a tent, a slide.
Summer weekends a slew of cars, a waft
of barbecue, hot music… “Open House”.
But not for us.  One year the grass grew long,
the curtains stayed undrawn.  A trip abroad?
We’ll never know.  Driving myself to work
I re-enact how we were shown around –
each room more elegant than the last,
curtains billowing inward from a garden
that promised views of further views beyond…
We settled somewhere else  – a different life
that (who knows?) might have better suited us,
that someone else might covet.   At night I pass
its hunkered homeliness, its lighted squares.
I like to catch the dumb show of their lives
through ripple glass, blue flicker of TV
dappling the ceiling.  Someone puts out the cat.
A woman laughs.  And then the lights go out.