Love Poem with Trash Compactor
What I loved about 1970, I couldn’t know then: denim bell bottoms, our pet schnauzer, Psyche, yes, and the elevator like a slow, brass skeleton at Mrs. Edson’s Southern School for Ballroom Dance. I loved that I knew not to touch the electric fence behind our house again. I loved the hammock that dipped like a Cheshire smile between two oaks and Saturday mornings sorting medical journals on my father’s office floor, concocting a maze of depression and psychosis. I loved my guppies and black mollies except when they lunched on each other. I loved the willow tree in Abby Goldsmith’s yard, that she said 49% of it was mine. I loved that when I hung from a branch too high and hollered for my father, six men eventually came running. I loved the forts built in abandoned lots, the creek bed dry or nearly brimming. I loved root beer and sarsaparilla, that I could return the new shoes resembling corrective Mary Janes. I loved a different boy every day. It was 1970, the era of free love, and I was nine. Olin Shivers, Einstein’s descendent, Gordon Beckham, future quarterback and banker, Arthur Gidding, quiet, blonde, perpetually disappearing. Love as lazy Susan, so the unrequited nature of affection in its particulars never smarted long. And Venus McCamish, with whom I played Samson and Delilah during the Tom Jones special. It’s not unusual that I loved her too, and hence, I guess, the Bible with its harsh romanticism. I loved Lot’s wife for looking back, Adam for pulling up his bootstraps, and yes, I loved the trash compactor in the Sears and Roebuck catalogue, its promise to condense a week’s refuse into a briefcase. I loved its potential
to disguise our waste, our taste for excess, predilection to bite off what could not be swallowed for all the children starving in Hunan and Timbuktu. I hated that my mother had forbidden the investment, insisting that we feel the size and heft of our desire, that we sense the awkward weight of plenty and lug the cumbersome bags of what we couldn’t use up to the cul-de-sac. I hated that she made my sisters and me wait by the mailbox hemmed with liriope, instructed us to thank the man who leapt like Fred Astaire’s younger, dumpy brother from the back of the trash truck, to shake his earnest, leathered, outstretched hand and not forget him.