The Waste Man
I. The Burial of the Refuse
April is the cruellest month, filling
Trashcans to their brims, mixing
Lawn clippings and cardboard, making
Everything wet and moldy with the spring rain.
Winter keeps us busy, covering
The streets in dead leaves, unloading
Dumpsters full of fake Xmas trees. Once
Someone surprised us coming over Tenth Street
His battery was dead; we stopped the garbage truck
And got off and gave him a jump. At McDonald’s
We drink coffee for our lunch hour.
Yo no soy marinero, soy capitan, soy capitan, soy capitan.
And when I was a kid, I lived with my momma,
She was a nurse, she took me to school each day,
And then she got cancer. She said, Mikey,
Mikey, hold on to life. And then she was gone.
We buried her in the mountains, she liked to ski.
I sleep, much of the night, and watch the Raiders in the winter.
What sort of crazy stuff do some people throw
Out with their usual rubbish? Man!
You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.
A heap of broken toilet seats,
And the carcass of a pet snake, a brand-new CD player,
And a lifesize cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan’s daughter. Y’know,
There is some crazy junk down at the municipal dump
(Come on down to the dump sometime)
And I will show you something weirder than anything
You have ever seen advertised on late-night TV
Or anything from a Coen Brothers movie.
I will show you Buicks, covered with rust.
Para bailar la bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia para mi para ti
Y arriba, y arriba
‘You married me six years ago;
‘I was the happiest girl in the world!’
—Yet when I came back, late, Friday night
My arms full of groceries, I read the note you left, I could not
Speak, and I dropped the bags, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I couldn’t work it out,
Looking at the eggs and the cauliflower smashed together on the floor.
Por ti sere, por ti sere
The bartender at the Albatross, famous for his eyepatch,
Has hepatitis C, but whatevs
Is known to make the best drinks this side of the Bay,
With a wicked pina colada. Here, said he,
Is your drink, the Long Island Iced Tea,
(Those girls are winking. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, Lady of the Night,
The lady for any situation.
Here is Sammy with three ex-wives, and here the ex-cop
And here is the pornographic merchant, and this guy,
Who is Korean, used to manage the K-mart
Before it went out of business. I do not find
A happy man. Fear death by landfill.
I see crowds of people, walking down San Pablo.
Thank you. If you see my dear departed wife,
Tell her I don’t need anyone but myself:
I’m better off without her.
Into the City,
Under the brown smog of a winter dawn,
Traffic stopped on the Bay Bridge, so many,
I had thought FasTrak would fix this bullshit.
Horn blasts, loud and frequent, could be heard,
And everyone fixed their eyes upon the road.
Crawled down the offramp onto a one-way street
To where the digital clock at Mervyn’s kept the hours
With top line missing whenever it said 9:00.
There I saw one I knew, and pulled over crying: ‘Jackson!
‘You who were with me in the APC at Khafji!
‘That girl you dated from Kansas City,
‘How did it work out? Did you break up?
‘And did you ever get her into bed?
‘Oh, well, dawg, if at first you don’t succeed
‘Try, try again!
‘Adios, mi amigo—mi compadre—mi hermano!’