“Dumping My Trash in the Neighbor’s Bin” by Michael Jones
Michael Jones teaches at Oakland High School in Oakland, CA. His work appears in Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other places. He tries to be a good neighbor.
Yes, poems really can be about anything, even taking out the trash. Really, though, this one’s about that question: what’s to see? It’s a corollary to whose business is it, anyway? How many times have you felt a little funny, say, letting yourself into your neighbor’s home because they’ve asked you to water their plants or feed their cat? Maybe you decide to try a new coffee shop and catch yourself feeling like you’ve cheated on your regular spot. Whatever forms they take, ideas about where we do and don’t belong are durable and sometimes outlive their usefulness. So asking what’s to see can be a liberation. In a short poem such as this, it functions like a haiku, where, in the silence after the poem, that expansive feeling of “filling whatever space will have [you]” is what matters most.
Typewriters and practice with cursive handwriting are two things that have been discarded in the digital age; their representative typefaces serve here as evidence of what might be going into the trash. The arrangement of the title and poet’s name mimics the lid of a certain style of trash receptacle currently ubiquitous in cities and suburbs alike.