A Woman on the Dump

Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher’s honeymoon, one finds
On the dump?
—Wallace Stevens

Out of the cracks of cups and their handles, missing,
the leaves unceremoniously tossed, unread,
from a stubble of coffee ground ever more finely
into these hollowed grounds,

the first shift coaxes bulldozers to life,
sphinxes to tease the riddled rubble
into fresh pyramids of rot. A staleness warms enough
to waft round the lord of all purveyed.

His to count the hauls past the yawning gates
of this New Giza into the Middle Kingdom’s
Late Intermediate Period. There, to purify,
to honor ourselves, we beg these offerings

of refuse be cast out. To the archaeologist
of the far-flung future, enough evidence
in the inscriptions to identify most owners:
spells scratched on the backs of envelopes

to be read out before animal sacrifice,
the milk, ground meat, beer, and soap
joined in this hereafter with the feast’s remains.
Over tomatoes splitting their sides,

over a teacup stained with roses
flattened into mosaic petal from petal,
earthmovers move a little mountain
and, having moved it, move on,

overturning a diamond sprung from its ring,
glitter to a magpie’s covetous eye.
If the art of loneliness is landscape,
armload by carload of black-bagged leaves,

landfill contours its likeness.

Debora Greger, “A Woman on the Dump” from Off-Season at the Edge of the World. Copyright © 1994 by Debora Greger. Used with the permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.
Source: Off-Season at the Edge of the World: Poems (1994)
More Poems by Debora Greger