Regular Pick-Ups

Winter Streets

He comes like Santa Claus
in unmagical night,
trailing a monster iron-wrought —
a hissing, growling, squealing beast
burning yellow and red down
streets of dispassion.
He is agent of convenient oblivion,
undertaker of jettisoned lives,
ferrying memories and disavowals
to mysterious ground.

Cylinders grumble and screech against concrete
as he drags them pair and single to compressor.
With both arms, and often one,
he’d hoick the containers to the mouth,
and in continuous motion, at times,
flip them, discharging their lode,
then flick the shells back to the sidewalk.
Without pause he’d dash to the next —
each deposit different, and same,
nameless and named piled in common,
he receives them all without query:
a mattress like wilted pancake,
a jumbo flat panel tv,
a rocking horse of plastic,
a rug rolled rough and loose,
a stack of crates for shelving,
a dining table and chairs,
a microwave oven, an exercise machine,
a desk top computer, a broken-footed sofa,
a pair of ski blades, several potted plants,
and myriad clandestine things of rubber,
and metal, and wood, and fabric, and
ceramic, and glass, and paper buried
in black bags among rotted refuse.
He hurls them at the gape with chucks
and lobs and thrusts and slings,
like an ancient soldier in battle;
his body ever turning, jolting, twisting,
heaving through its sinewy length,
sweat spewing in sprit and stream,
salt and grime and putrid mist clung over him.

He dances this all night:
nights in spring perfumed with promise,
summer nights splayed in heat,
autumn nights of exquisite melancholy,
winter nights smothered in desolation,
nights swallowed by blizzard,
nights thrashed by lightning,
nights pummeled by hurricane,
foggy nights, sweltry nights, boring nights,
crazed nights, lonely nights, sleepless nights,
New Year’s night, Valentine’s night, Independence night,
Halloween night, Thanksgiving night, Christmas night;
all through the night,
through the stench,
the fatigue, the ache, and boredom
he dances it till the streets are purged —
for the surety of biweekly pay.

At home — he shuts the door with
deliberated stealth, stows his garment before
filth meets air in his apartment.
He had scoured himself at the garage,
now he slips on a T and sweatpants,
fresh with the trace of laundered detergent.
He pauses at his children’s room, long
enough to be comforted by their wheezing,
plods to the kitchen for his saved dinner,
then proceeds to bed, where lays his wife.
Some nights would draw him quickly under.
Other nights he would stroke her
awake, and they make love.
Sensing his exhaustion, she’d coil over
him, lay a pillow beneath his head
and straddle; she would bend to him,
sweeping her breasts over his face and
chest with mesmeric undulations.
Certain nights, her fragrance — the mix
of her musk, her hair and body wash,
and the smell of their home —
lifts him above all things, and
he’d summon the strength to mount her.
He would bear down on her,
plunge desperately into her scent —
eager to devour and be engulfed in it —
and they barrel together toward delirium.
Then he’d submerge into sleep.

Soon, she rises to ready herself
and the children for the day.
Outside, light streams down the splendid avenues,
restored to first world rightfulness — again.

more by JUN HUA EA

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