Trash Day in L.A.
Allison Heim

Because I like to say today
is the rest of yesterday
I was never really concerned by
putting out the garbage late,
but that was before the dawn parades
collided in disputed territory,
our usually glutted curb. Absent
were the five trash cans simpering
with their lids blown off,
bottles and soda cans bagged with tampons
out of spite for snooping hands,
recyclables buried with cat litter
in the discarded box advertising the upgrade
we just bought. For this,
our rubbish, our private daily lives,
the war of the cans waged on.

On this cloud-scarred morning
already approaching earthquake weather
all their routes met here; they circled
their bicycle rickshaws and Ford Aerostars,
ragged can collectors eyeing empty space
like a troupe of Sherpas waiting for rations
so as to ascend the Himalayas,
and I surrendered, hands in full view,
moving cautiously, grating the maggoty cans
along the driveway one by one then dashing back
on the pretense of scrubbing my hands,
but really, to peer out the window
at the law of the jungle. All was not well.
It seemed the bicycle people had a grudge
against the car people for killing
one of their own, and they demanded
the rights to our garbage, that of the most
prolific Yoo Hoo drinkers in the neighborhood.

Thus mayhem ensued:
women belted each other with chicken carcasses,
glass shattered against cars, alarms droned,
and dogs woofed and went back to the scraps.
Worst of all, a week’s worth of everything
that should be hidden and gotten rid of jiggled softly
or fled down the street for everyone to see
and they saw it and noted
how much one house can eat, drink, buy, break,
kill, and let go untouched. Everyone cheered
the pair of one-armed veterans
as they whacked each other with the vegetables
I didn’t eat, and for one lonely second
I considered the state of things and my contributions
and briefly mourned our collapsing planet
just long enough to miss the best fight
the street had seen in months.

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