Art by Cleo Ding

The Garbage Man

By Daniel Magee

Garbage man, stop your rummaging 
through the detritus and debris of this Earth. 
It has taken you to many places, stumbling 
through cities of swill that once held worth – 
for they grew like weeds from vision – 
since collapsed into dust and division. 

Garbage man, sift with the Ibis, watch its dives, 
pecking the remains of this world of waste. 
Find stories that fill in the outlines of lives, 
hollowed out and whittled down by the bitter taste 
of an endless eleventh hour – 
At least see them, drowning in leachate and fear. 

The Garbage man watches one such hollow man, 
who feels the settling regret from last night’s 
tempest of drinks in his eyes, reddening the whites. 
It thumps like drums inside, but he only stares deadpan 
at the bottles he will empty, to insulate his head 
against the silence of nothing new – the dread. 

Through wasted time and people, he fumbles, 
and finds another husk; she trips and stumbles 
over a labyrinthine ground of shifting  
positions. None blame her for drifting, 
when the floor shifts as much as the mode. 
Issues cycle – fast fashion is the moral code. 

The Garbage man flinches, though he just begun, 
and he turns his face to the sky. 
Stirring with cobalt fury, it lingers in his eye, 

and the night’s lights showed what had been done 
to his clean soul, mixing with the grime. 
It had drained him, stained him, in little time. 

And he, the last fibre of a too taut rope, 
is grinding his teeth for anxious hope, 
that these last, hollow women and men  
might wake from the reverie of the empty wrench 
that pangs at night, when one’s head becomes a den. 
To be clean is a thirst the Garbage man cannot quench. 

But there is time. The silhouettes look up 
and see the Garbage man crying for them, 
and their wretchedness is touched. They cup 
their hearts in their hands and think back to when 
Time was ill-conceived; how the years would flow, 
trickle into countless days. And although 

They are still hollow, they see themselves reflected 
in the Garbage man’s sorrow. 
And they understand for the first time that; 
though shallow, they are not bound to be so. 

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