Patrolling the Border

by William Doreski

The sun rises, looks around,
withdraws to regain its courage.
Up again, it still looks timid
as a tulip. I’m out early,
plucking trash from the roadside,
hoping to encourage bunchberry,
clintonia, and wild ginger—
flowers gone nearly extinct
after flourishing for decades
along our dead-end road. The day
promises and promises but
won’t follow through. Orpheus
won’t see Eurydice again,
Ophelia won’t start swimming,
and our assassinated Presidents
won’t resume their leadership.
I’m sick of Dunkin’ Donuts bags,
of plastic pints of vodka,
chocolate milk gone sickly,
Milky Way wrappers flapping
on the rim of the marsh where peepers
chant in a disciplined chorus.
I bag the trash so emphatically
it squeals in protest.  Old friends
would laugh at my flailing gestures,
but they’ve all died and left me
to patrol the boundary between
nature and culture by myself.
The sun has gained some strength
and I sweat enough to attract
a maze of blackflies keening
their indelible, inaudible rage.
My bag is full. I heft it home
to deliver to the landfill,
where even the feisty dreams fade,
leaving only the faintest
and least offensive odors.

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e- and print journals and in several collections, most recently Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston. James Roper is the chief photographer of World Food, a book series from Penguin Random House, the first volume of which will be released in 2020. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

One thought on “Patrolling the Border

  1. Well stated. My daughters and I did trash duty by our town roadsides on Thanksgiving. Add to the sad detritus of culture a plastic bottle of men’s hair dye, and a soggy, nearly full pack of cigarettes. I guess he quit, but he dyed anyway.


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