Garbage | Pedaling My Bike Past Jefferson Davis Place


Creepy old guy’s digging through
the garbage at 6:00 am––
Bill complains
on the locals’ page.
Neighbors suggest he’s an artist,
gathering tin to shape
into tourist treasures,
replace creepy
with harmless, quiet,
down on luck,
vow to leave sorted cans
along his route, even say
his name.

Bill retorts SO WHAT
preparing for school
in morning shadows.

I reply:
Go to school, my dear ones,
learn to salvage
the bounty that belongs
to us all. Scrounge
through rubbish to find it,
don’t be shooed away
like a swarming fly.
It’s your world to retrieve.

Pedaling My Bike Past Jefferson Davis Place

Shame is the shadow that creeps
over me, despite the startling sun
that sweeps this island golden
in the ocean’s cleansing path,

ashamed this town chooses to live
in the cobwebbed corners of time,
languishes in lies spun
to weave a silky civility

around the livelihood he championed,
when owning another person was nothing
more than squashing a roach
crawling across the kitchen floor.

But I can sweep shame silently
into the corners, can leave
it loosely piled in the dustpan,
broom waiting patiently beside the sink.

If it were Goebbels Road, Hitler Lane,
if swastikas and gas chambers crammed
with guiltless bodies were glorified
on that same street sign, making

never again
ring hollow with bitterness
in the ears of one who could
have been slaughtered too,

my fists would quake on the handlebars,
my eyes would sting with the vile
soot still blinding us, a helmet
would not be enough.

I would have to encase my heart
in steel to ride home. Until
my town renames this street,
there’s no other route.

About Joanne Durham

Joanne Durham is a retired educator living on the North Carolina coast, with the ocean as her backyard. Her chapbook, On Shifting Shoals, will be published by Kelsay Books in 2022. Please see https://www.joannedurham.com/ for more about her background, poetry, and awards.

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