From Our Basement

I couldn’t stop piling
musty pillows, broken toys,
empty cardboard boxes waiting three years
to move me out of the house
where my marriage ended.
I’m still here.

This pile for donation:
jeans outgrown by widening hips and lengthened
legs, toys for babies, colorful under dust,
the light fixture we replaced, the rack
we hung our coats upon for years.

This pile for a friend:
a bag of small clothes and little dolls,
my mother’s fine table that lost a chair
all those years ago, thrown
in anger by her second husband,
and my second husband’s grandmother’s
once pristine solid dark wood table
whose chairs cracked by
leaning back too much, surface scarred
by careless forks and wayward fire.

This pile to recycle:
the boxes, broken down flat.

This pile for the earth:
anything peed upon by proud cats
or sleeping toddlers, moldy rugs and concrete dust
destroyed by basement water, clothes broken open
by busy knees, toys by small boys’ hands, and
tiny plastic parts that lost their large plastic families.

I’m done collecting junk,
holding onto dust.
I returned it to itself.
You know how it goes,
the saying.

My daughter and I hauled pile four
in three
truckloads to the landfill where
expressionless glancing men shoveled
rancid trash onto a stained conveyor belt.
Two times in the white truck we backed in
and tossed our junk on the rank concrete.

Throw it away, most of us say.

You may have heard there is no away,
and they, of course, are right,
but that the earth
would open its mouth
and swallow
what is broken, useless and stinking in my life
healed me, even as I cringed
at my own shameful waste.
I half expected the attendant to shake her head, click
her tongue, but this is Morgan County, and I’m Green.
No one cared but me. They took my money. Six bucks
a load to unload more than they could ever bury.

The third load skipped the conveyor
and went straight to the earth:
the peeling old front door (what did we save it for?)
the bent aluminum swing set
the futon we made love on,
that our kids
napped and peed on in trusted, diaperless sleep,
that I leaned upon to push our second son
in a great thrust of inner wind
into a dry world from inside
my wet and bleeding one,
that held you in the basement
when we began to separate

That futon was so bright there at the foot
of the pile, the most beautiful of trash,
hunched over in accidental sorrow
like the woman I saw thrown from her car,
breast hanging out the bottom of her disheveled shirt,
unmoving. I prayed someone would come
rescue her because I couldn’t stop,
already late for the airport.
She was dead on arrival.
Nobody saved her.

Now, at the landfill, I hoped
the men to our left tossing
roof shingles one by one by hand
from a low trailer would see the futon
in its red, black and tan
southwest glory
and save it, take it home,
kiss their wives upon it.
They were too busy.

I watched it, a bright memory
folded in on itself in the rearview mirror
and drove over the scale
lighter, on time.


One Response to “From Our Basement”

  1. Fey says:

    Jung would be verily proud of such a cleasning.

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