He takes aluminum cans from the neighbor’s trash, limps off and walks his bike
down this late morning road, down to the next home
where he hunches down into the green bin, lifts himself back up and holds
another can to his face, considering it like how one considers his options
in this life and possibly the next.
He wears a greenish-yellowish safety vest with torn-out reflectors
and he puts these crushed soda cans
in a rusted child’s wagon, with pallet slats on all the sides,
so the soda cans can pile up and up and up,
while it swivels like a computer chair as he moves. The rope between the bike and wagon
is white, and thin like a shoe string, tied at the wagon’s handle and the bike’s frame.
Attached to this man is this pathetic carrier.
But if that goes, then does he too?
He has been everywhere in this neighborhood of winding roads and oak trees, the oak trees
our roofs, and his, too, in his dirty pants
and blue-holed shoes. He often penetrates our conversations.
“Have you seen this man, lately?” Nothing of note.
But yes I have, at the gas station, where he resembles the pumps, where I tell him,
“Hold on, hold on. I might have something for you.”
But Those Quarters
Saddened at the Laundromat.
I had gone out to the car for quarters.
Can’t you tell I didn’t bring enough?
I brought the basket, and in the basket:
soap, dryer sheets, and the clothes of course.
Everything but a few more quarters.
I had this moment in the car
while getting those few forgotten quarters.
I hovered over the center console,
somewhere between the driver’s side and
the passenger’s side. I stayed there
for a good while, looking in the
center console, at the quarters
settled at the bottom. How long
had I been away? It was the
first time in a long time that I
felt alone. I even enjoyed the stale
heat of the car. And why not!
I closed the door. I noticed a few things.
The time on the radio blinked,
for example, and stayed at one time.
It needed to be set, and I had to set it. You see, I just
had the battery replaced. Then it came to me — this
was once my father’s car, and once
he took me here to do the family’s laundry.
At this place, around this time. He on the driver’s
side, and me in the passenger’s.
What happened when I returned
to the laundromat is what got me.
Whoever you are, wet clothes bandit,
I want you to know how you brought
me down. That moment, an eerie
moment in the car, mixed itself with the
gut-drop wonder of my open washer,
the backside of the lid with all the
orange instructions showing, and my clothes removed.
Was I really gone that long? That I
had not noticed you emptying my
clothes from the washer? Or had seen you
pouring out of the door from the view
from my car? I think
of catching you. “Those are mine,” I
would say. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Or you could have taken them by accident.
Now, I can take an accident. An accident is
what I can handle. I’ve dealt with accidents
before. I pray it’s an accident. But I still wonder how it feels to
hold in your arms the clothes of some stranger.
Wet clothes nonetheless.
And then, to leave.
There was still my basket, and the soap
and dryer sheets, too. All that still there, thank heavens.
I checked the dryers even though none
were running. None were full, either. And
what had I expected? For you to have
thrown my clothes in? Only the washers were
running. I lingered in this place. I looked
down in the newly unoccupied washer where
my clothes once churned. Hear me out on this.
I reached for both sides and carried myself
over the bin. What I did expect to see were
not my clothes, but those quarters. That’s what you did
to me. What I expected were those few forgotten
quarters. Right at the bottom of things, and I was
transported back into my father’s car,
where nothing was ever really mine
to begin with. Hand-me-downs, you might say.
Even those clothes. And if I had seen you run out
with my in your arms, I doubt I would
have recognized them.
I gave out my name to anyone
who might listen, as if it carried
any importance among the wash cycles.
And I’m sure it doesn’t matter to you, either.
Then, I tried to describe my clothes from memory.
Saddened at that, too.
This morning a slight rain. My love
is already gone to work. From my room
I can hear tires slosh on the wet road
and the call of finches at the feeder outside
the window. It comes to me as if from a distance, what she said
before she left. “It’s raining.” The way she says it.
I love these Sounds. And mornings with rain,
they make me feel a certain way, too. Like
I have never had a single thought worthy
of my time. That all that had happened
never did happen.
All of it.
Just how mornings are,
with the smallest aches,
storm clouds opening to a clear noon sky,
and how she is not here. How sore
it is, except for this tiny moment
of restoration from this slight
rain, from this morning, and
the memories of dreams.
It, fading with the rest.