The Disposers

Inspired by a Trip to the Dump:

How kind of these birds to help us,
screaming their delight
or their reproaches — who can know? —
as they orbit low.

Above the black mountain they inhale
the aroma, rotten smells that tantalize.
Man’s refuse, ravens’ delight
creatures of day and night.

What do they think of such profligates?
“How wasteful these people — all this good food!
Or do they imagine we offer to them?
“Such thoughtful men.”

Screaming, poking, doing battle
with crickets for the choicest bits,
they pull from the pile whatever
they can between the rattle and roar
of trucks bearing yet more slag —
splitting plastic bags.

We frown at their presence ungratefully,
despise their ceaseless gloating, yet
how busy do we keep those birds!
And you’ll never see them shirk
their useful work.

We sneer and say, “What vile profession!”
As if we were not partner here,
while they dispose of our debris,
the dregs of our prosperity,
and we get off so free.

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