Darrell Petska, a retired university engineering editor, is a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry can be found in 3rd Wednesday, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, Chiron Review and widely elsewhere (conservancies.wordpress.com). Father of five and grandfather of six, he lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of more than 50 years.
Tuesday here is Rubbish Day. To the curb each Monday night we dutifully wheel our rumbly bins. It's all planned out: pay the tax, consume, toss what's left to the lumbering trucks that make it disappear: fait accompli! Fifty-two Tuesdays each year, we observe this metropolitan rite, our kids and we in awe of the trucks roaring along the street, flexing hydraulic arms heavenward to drop our dreck into the truck’s maw feeding off our lives. What a show! (Poochie hasn’t a clue our rubbish lies a foot or so beneath his ball-pursuing paws at the dog park née landfill that supplanted a wheat field our city claimed for rubbish hauls Monday-Friday, minus holidays.) Aside from death and taxes, nothing could be more certain than Rubbish Day, observed punctually, religiously—it holds now that lofty perch the Sabbath commanded till consumerism supplanted our prayers.
Would sun simply feel “hot”, snow “cold”, grass growing “fast”, flowers smelling “sweet”? How might we succor our minds struggling to see beyond deadlines, the mortgage, college expenses, worrisome pains and the specter of insignificance tracking our scents, time’s eraser absolute? Could we stay sober having once sipped poetry’s wine? Is there a 12-step program addressing addictions to word and sound, interventions to short-circuit the lapses? How long could sobriety last in the face of silence so deep we might drown? Maybe there’s a pill to swallow, a yoga practice, a god or creed to take its place? Many seem to manage without it, content with the daily humdrum and heartbeat—poetry as indecipherable as Rongorongo. But where could we turn for answers to unanswerable questions, for questions to help explain the unanswerable? Without poetry, what would life seem? Or might we conclude that life, after all, is poetry misperceived?
Prevailing winds of summer sweep clean the big box store’s parking lot, air-light litter fleeing north till snagged by the weedy ditch abutting frontage road already fraught with filmy shopping bags, snack sacks, face masks, crinkled water bottles, candy wrappers, takeout containers, spent diapers, plus a miscellany some lawn mower jockey will now and then reduce to smithereens— weeds and castoffs ceding briefly to manicured green shot through with plastic bits the soil's burrowing denizens will ingest to their stunted detriment, then expel to soil that taints the weeds through which mice nibble and mom birds scavenge for nesting building blocks— worm-like plastic strips serving handily, if also fatally for undiscerning baby birds. Searing sunrays bleach vagrant plastic sheathings into leachable, edible microbits till clement winds turn wintry, sweeping fugitive litter south to mingle with the fast food joint's refuse that swirls into the nearby freeway ditch winter snows will purify until spring shoots green and that first absolving mowing grinds to earth the damning evidence of our careless hands and myopic minds.