Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Thirty-one
Spring 2013
Garbage Night
Liz Martin

Maybe I want the car to crash,
because I’ve been dying
in New Jersey, Bloomfield: my spaghetti
squash never blooms, my tomatoes get
a slick, sick green film that the beetles won’t eat
soil can’t function in the Garden State.

Never thought I’d be homesick
for rusty cars, factories and drug stores,
where people don’t say,
“Would you like low-sodium, baked
sweet potato fries with that?
Or beanballs, kale salad, or a groovy
green smoothie with spirulina?”
Where mothers ask to be moved when you
and your friends sit down near them in the Friendly’s.
God I can’t wait to escape Connecticut
because in T-town I’m the only one that noticed
how she shook her head, told her daughter
to eat her sundae quicker.

Always a compromise again, and again,
and again, like “La Vie Boheme” that skips
permanently on my I-Pod, fiddling
with my windshield wipers wishing
I was driving up 23 to see mountains cresting
up over the hill when you get to Cairo. To
close my eyes and go back to a fleeting
four-year home not mine to keep,
not to crappy Connecticut where now
I sometimes still wish I was but wishing I hadn’t
fallen in love so young with a man
so ready for it all to start “now”
when I should still be living at that cabin
on Pine Lake indulging in the kisses
of a boy-drunken moment under a pavilion
still running through my mind like water
through our burbling turtle tank filter.
I wish I wanted this life more and
I wish I didn’t wish so much or want,
but could learn to be content with the now
and then I wish I wasn’t so old in this
second floor apartment where squirrels used
to wake me up running
in the walls until we chopped
the branches off our neighbor’s tree,
so now it’s just the pigeons that won’t go
away because the crazy
bird lady next door can’t stop feeding
them whole loaves of bread. She thinks
they’ll die without her.

Couldn’t someone have just sat me down,
drawn my knees close to theirs,
taken the time with small words
to say: “You’ll have to work for a living someday.”
Did I really have to major in theatre?
“Would you like fries with that?”
The salty kind with extra grease like that guy
I dumped in high school pushed managing McDonald’s.
We’d sit there in those shiny booths licking
scalding hot apple pie filling off of our fingers.

Is the world preordained, like the theoretical
physicists say, and we have no choice,
our molecules know where they’ll be
so life really is set without your input,
thank you very much. I have no choice,
but to sit here in my old red chair
wish my life hadn’t turned out quite
this way. But lying in my bed at night
with a warm back pressed close
to mine, Kevin holding my hand
as we stroll down the boardwalk
with too old women wearing too tight dresses,
floppy breasts jiggling in attack position,
laughing through forty minutes
bumper to bumper traffic
for my favorite hand-pressed tofu,
I’d miss our British pasty shop,
the way Skinny hugs me when we visit
his 69 Bayard Restaurant in Chinatown,
where every night is garbage night.
Where one time the unforgiving contents spewed
forth from inside the belly of the great steel beast
all over an unsuspecting garbage man.

About Liz Martin

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