I remember a friend of mine in college who toyed around with the idea of basing a short film on the role garbage plays in our day to day life. “In a way,” he said, “we expect a garbage can to save our souls.” We talked for hours on this concept, me bringing up how I have family living on the border, some of whom have lived in shacks on the edges of landfills.
Reading this week’s poem – “Garbage Dump” by Javier Etchevarren – I returned to these ideas on reality as well as the realities that come with these ideas. The stylistic choices Etchevarren makes really come together with the content. The lack of punctuation and capitalization really put an emphasis on the line that isn’t always effective when done by others, but he nails the nuance available in that move. Subtly, the meditation on the social goes beyond the metaphorical to imply an overall gravity to existence that turns the world upside down.
Garbage Dump – Javier Etchevarren *
dessert for the starving
where there are people there’s garbage
where there are people there’s hope
including the hope to live off garbage
surplus of misery
the despicable man is the celebrity of throwaways
appliances gone senile, the latest styles in shreds, storm clouds
of plastic, maggot bonfire
to pass through life is to feed a garbage dump
laying out provisions
for an impoverished bacchanal
* translated by Don Bogen
p.s Check out more of Don Bogen’s translations of Etchevarren featured on Poetry Daily here.
Etchevarren will five poems total in the upcoming anthology América invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poets.
Anything that happens is too fast to see
But I watched it – there are pictures in the album
Less than a second’s light fixed in chemicals
Little boxes under a vinyl sheet gone cloudy now
What are these dyes that fade at the surface
That child face you wear still under your skin
Whenever I look nothing changes
A photo gives the residue of a lost moment
It claws at memory like a drowning swimmer
Who will not be saved
Just finished reading Don Bogen’s book An Algebra, a collection consisting primarily of extended lyric sequences counterpointed by shorter lyrics like the one above.
The poem above speaks to the heart of the collection – Bogen presents a lyrical exploration of personal history, a concept that would be daunting if it weren’t rooted in a sense of self. You can hear a real voice puzzling over That child face you wear still under your skin.
Last month I spoke about how cemeteries and thrift stores are alike in that they are charged with human connection, human lives passing each other in stone and aisle. Reading the next poem, I marveled at Bogen’s ability to delve into that other charged human place – the yard sale – and dig out of it a real sense of mortality.
The way things change when we get rid of them, the way we change getting rid of them, what passes idly through the hands on a Saturday morning – all of it part of the history of who we were.
Wants – Don Bogen
There’s nothing anyone could want
A yard sale where the private past is suddenly on display
Brought up from storage, dazed and blinking
Drugstore lamps, dessert glasses, AM clock radio
The two-speed bicycle you stripped down over the years
Worth more if it still had its tank, fins, and handlebar streamers
What moves and what doesn’t – you can’t sell it all
On card tables old desires transpose into objets d’art and junk
The basement empties like the hold of a freighter
So you can get away