“Trash” by Lowell Jaeger

Lowell Jaeger


This year’s leaves are last year’s leaves
again. Even the loam breathes.
I believe this and Leonard YoungBear says
in the old days there was no such thing as trash:

Indians camped and left ashes only, or bones,
bits of hide, feathers, mounds of buffalo dung.
What the dogs didn’t eat, coyotes did.
Or wind, snow. Beneath trees and prairie grass

everything from the earth returned. Human life
too, Leonard says, should be like that.
I know, I say, I’m not afraid anymore
of dying. It’s trash

that worries me. Caskets. I keep thinking
of tin cans, foil, yellow rubber raincoats don’t
rot very quick, don’t burn either; bury them
and something spits them back. I’d sooner fall

in the woods, feed the sharp teeth of many hungers
beyond my own. And part of me will swim downstream
in the cold eyeball of a fish next time, my soul
under the wings of a young bird learning to fly.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Lowell Jaeger: “As a teen in the great north woods, I spent long quiet hours in my hometown library, where I found solace from troubles at home, troubles in school, and troubles in the world. I sat in the big leather chairs and read T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. I had no clear understanding of the book, such a foreign, worldly voice, so unlike the talk of local lumberjacks and factory workers. Yet that poem and I sat and conversed mysteriously beyond the words on the page. For a while, that poem was my best friend. I’d be honored if any poem of mine were ever so esteemed.” (web)

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