Sanitation Worker


[Piazza d’Italia by Giorgio de Chirico, 1913]

Sanitation Worker

She wears great big clonky boots.

She’s all zipped up in a filthy  orange suit.

Shoulder-length blond  hair blowing in the air.

She loves riding on the back of that truck!

That’s all the fun of it  for her. Jumping up,

getting just the right bend

of her knees, letting go

with one hand, waving to the driver

Head on, lets go!

You watch her

Swinging out as it lurches forward and edges to the curb

again. Flipping off the tops, some plastic, some metal, some leaving

them strewn across the grass, across the sidewalk, heaving up

a stuffed can, lurching to the back of the truck, stuffing it, watching

the cascade of labels, paper plates and chicken

carcasses, envelopes and magazines, junk mail, coupons, paper bags and

wadded tissues, ketchup bottles bleeding at the top, spaghetti

and fried chicken boxes, TV dinners (gravy, mashed potatoes,) twinkie

wrappers, coke cans, cheez whiz and soggy

cheerios flly out with the milk.

All the stuff that doesn’t matter

Thrown off, tossed down, dumped in.

She does this for you

What’s it like?


she jumps on the back of the truck. See, both feet

land on this metal platform, you know, the serrated kind?

Sort of bumpy for good traction?

Well, she jumps on there  in her cleated boots and boy

she knows she’s Steady. She grabs hold of that bar

with her right hand and hangs out wide

to the side. Dogs come chasin’, boy, do they!

Nippin’ at her heels and she yells Scram!

Get outa here mutts! They don’t come back!

When she looks back

one of ’ems got his whole head in that can!

You stand in her wake,

a wet reek of dank


And so you are pure, left behind

on the sidewalk amid empty cans

rid of the history of your week,

dumped, crushed.

She will burn it.

It will burn.


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