By Terry Trowbridge
Nameless relations can too easily go unlegitimated, hence are vulnerable to marginalization.
—Adele Clarke, Making Kin Not Population, p. 32.
The word for the only member of the household with a driver’s license.
The word for planting hundreds of perennial flowers that each have multiple blooms because other houses on the street are farmers with beehives; meanwhile developers are paving and condominiumizing the Fruit Belt. The word that connotes both community support and community opposition.
The word for harvesting yarrow, dead nettle, lilac flowers from the ditches and road allowances so the young adult learns to make mead with what is available, learns to eat from what is available, learns to leave behind roots and seeds and enough stems with flowers to ensure next year more will be available. The word that connotes staying home by going outside. The word that runs errands through wandering aimlessly.
The word for the only person on the street who goes to monthly public town council meetings.
The word for the only person on the street who doesn’t have a day job. The 3 a.m. word for them watching the cars that don’t live on the street slowly drive past, only to notice this one person is on the porch in an inch of snow, bong in one hand, smartphone texting casually in the other. The word for the cars stopping, three-point turning, and driving away. The word for being the only street without burglaries last year.
The word for the neighbors that don’t make any comments at all about the transgendered young adult wearing a dress on the way to the store. The word for the neighbors who tried the mead and gave feedback.
The word for the neighbor who walks their dog with two beers in case any other neighbor happens to be outside.
The word for the lawn tractor up on a jack, lawn mower drive belt being replaced by an absolute novice while the neighbor and their dog open the beers because it’s going to be a while.
The word for the absolute novice farmer who all the nth-generation farmers kibitz from their pickup truck window. The word for their advice. The word that implies continuity of nth generations comes from a few minutes of shooting the shit. The word for here comes the dog walker, see you later.
The word for the botanist who works at a greenhouse-cannabis operation, who gives advice to the teenagers. The word for teenagers looking for dead fish on the shore of the Great Lakes based on that advice. The word that connotes this soil was added to the garden because the neighbor who works at the greenhouses told us to come to his backyard and take as much as we could shovel.
The word for the chickens that live in the coop we built in the backyard, who give us eggs, who are our composting sanitation workers, whom we pet and who follow us around the yard, is the chickens. The word for when a fox or coyote or dog eats one is normal. The word for the family that adopts “rescue chickens” sprung from Bird Jail by the local animal activists is still uncoined.
The word for the humans that carpenter bees treat like neighbors because they are neighbors.
The word for the neighbor who plants trees so that they soak up the rainwater before a storm can cause the lowland house across the street to flood.
The word for the neighbor who lets the next-door chickens run around his yard because they are neighbors.
The uneasy premonition that naming these relationships might result in regulating them out of existence.
Terry Trowbridge thanks the Ontario Arts Council for his first writing grant and asks the government of Ontario to expand their OAC grants to more people.