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Friday, 11 January 2013

Sullen Beauty Supply


Designer Dogs, Arbor, California: photo by efo, 12 April 2012

No one afoot in the cold dark silent hiatus time on the Avenue
hours after the neo liberal television and social media talking heads have rolled out of the expensive eateries of the Gulch
whose rows of "Food Scraps Only" garbage receptacles could feed Guatemala and half of Nicaragua
were the contents not jumbled into a wet soiled inedible mass
the compaction evidently meant to foil exactly the sort of random democratic distribution of the superabundant material wealth
which I encounter just down the next block on the empty pavement outside the cheapo convenience store
where Sharif the Street Good Samaritan
in his Mongolian tundra knit mountain cap with the large dangling ear flaps resembling dewlaps
kneels on hard unyielding city concrete beside his bicycle and the large carrying basket
into which he is carefully packing the discarded past-sell-by-date food goods that have been left out to rot in the green plastic bins
("these dates mean nothing, they're just an excuse to clean the shelves and produce more redundant product")
slowly sorting through everything removing the meat products and those with ingredients that as he calmly explains cause cancer
He is buried now beneath the growing trove of items he will surely never be able to fit into his basket

the boxes of stale miniature powdered donuts
the soggy knock-off-brand power bars
the rancid apple juice in the bulging plastic containers
the bruised mangoes
the crushed avocados that appear to have been stepped on by the Angry Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
and bananas gone soft and dark as bruised as an academic expert's long-since-bought-out heart
This Angel of Mercy for the Fallen defying the economics of artificial scarcity
loading himself down like an unremunerated sherpa
to begin his bike trek through the night
dropping off these painstakingly retrieved semi-edible waste goods
at each stop on his rounds
the shop doorway night encampments of the small impromptu tribes of the broken and destitute peoples of the blighted land of the urban unfree
where huddled in ragged swaddling clothes fished from freeboxes
with their small fugitive puffs of frosted breath emanating from darkness indicating life remains behind the thin plyboard sheet defensive barriers
they lie awake awaiting him
restless and cold to the bone and hungry, hungry
in ways that the most subtle monitoring devices of the new technology
were never fashioned by their android masters
to detect much less know or understand

Sullen Beauty Supply Center... and Rudy's, next door. Richmond, California: photo by efo, 16 October 2005


Hazen said...

This is a wrenching indictment of our system of material plenty, one where compassion is in chronic short supply. Sharif the Samaritan must make his nocturnal rounds dispensing to the destitute a mercy that’s long past due. Old elephants solemnly converging on their final waddi have more dignity. Money, debt, deficits, and all that—they’re just numbers, abstractions, and ultimately meaningless, except that they serve to mask an absence, and rationalize an all-consuming inner cruelty.

Anonymous said...

That's telling it like it is. In no uncrtain terms.

Mose23 said...

The "ear flaps resembling dewlaps" - aligning the image with the animal world. Also, a kind of foolishness, a comical touch. Here's a true holy eedjit. Goodness could never be slick in a world like this.

their small fugitive puffs of frosted breath

These words particularly move me. Bruised mouths grasping at the air before they price it up.

This piece has force.

TC said...

Many thanks, friends.

Even this very cold air we struggle to breathe probably has a sell-by date by now, were we able to turn it upside down and make out the very fine print.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

A poem with images that Greeks (BC=before crisis)would have associated with inner city living conditions in the United States; now, the problem is festering in their garbage bins.

Jonathan Chant said...

Excellent poem Tom.

TC said...

Thank you, Vassilis and Jonathan.

The idea of a social problem festering in a bin is perhaps too close to the present reality for comfort.

One is reminded of the binned situation of the character in Beckett, and come to think of it, at least there would be an economical conservation of body warmth, provided one kept the lid down.

Though -- the maggots.