Monday, February 14, 2011

Winton Place

I'm not a poetry writer. I can count the number of poems I've written (always assignments for a class) on one hand. The first one I wrote in college had a heavy-handed rhyme scheme, ABAB ABAB ABAB, etc. It was about Dopey, he of the seven dwarfs. He resented how everyone assumed he was unintelligent because of his name. After all, he was smart like Doc, and shy like bashful. In the end, he killed all the other dwarfs (ending with something like, "He shot them one by one..... Dopey's label is undone.") The other poem that I wrote freshman year was about the neighborhood where I grew up, Winton Place.

The street corners,
Populated with discarded lottery tickets,
Entice loitering.

The boys, not yet in high school, gulp
Their Mountain Dews in unison. They laugh
At the man who wears a black and orange
Hat and coat. He raises his head
To acknowledge their stares, then returns his gaze
To the liquor bottle, as his soiled hat bobs
To the broken walkman's silent music.

A shopping cart clatters, veering off course
At each whim of the cement. The man in the soiled hat
Guides the cart, full of forsaken pop cans
Worth a nickel each. His head shifts
Left then right, guarding his fortune.
The boys, not yet in high school, finish
Their Mountain Dews in unison and

The empty cans take their
Place on the ground beside the
Discarded lottery tickets.

These guys (I combined two men to make it easier) were regular sights around my neighborhood. There was the man with headphones, always bobbing, never bothering anyone, and there was a man with the shopping cart, sometimes pulling cans out of recycling bins, but more often picking them up off the ground. I saw them as I walked to my bus stop, or to my friend's house, or to the corner store to buy (yes) Mountain Dew or bags of chips. I loved Ruffles, Cheddar and Sour Cream, and Grippos Barbeque the best. The men never bothered me or said anything to me; they were just a presence around the neighborhood.

I post the poem here not because I think it's good (I don't) but because I was thinking about life here in the suburbs. When I can drive to my house, going straight from the interstate to a busy street full of Walmarts and fast food restaurants and turn into my little area apart from everyone else's little areas, I don't see other lifestyles. I don't see people waiting for public transportation, grocery bags in hand. My neighbors aren't on food stamps (as far as I know; I've never talked to my neighbors). And I certainly don't see men picking up aluminum cans, hoping for the nickel or dime he can earn with each one. Those people still exist, of course, but because they're out of my line of sight, I don't think of them.

So I guess I'm reminding myself.

1 comment:

george rede said...

Interesting how you got from the poem to your point about life in the suburbs. I can relate. Just by moving two miles west, from a Leave It To Beaver neighborhood of tree-lined streets and well-kept houses to a more walkable, more diverse neighborhood (duplexes, triplexes, condos, apartments, single-family homes), we've encountered the very things that are now absent for you. We have men pushing shopping carts through the streets, homeless folks camped outside Safeway and Goodwill and a variety of people who join me waiting for the bus. All in all, it feels more interesting than in our other 'hood.
It's good to remind yourself these people exist.