Poem: The mobile waste facility

I wrote this poem as a first attempt at doing justice to the pleasure I get in almost any site to do with the waste industry but perhaps especially recycling facilities.

The mobile waste facility
30 July 2013

Better than a farmers’ market or even a funfair
Veolia bring their waste wagons once a week
and the whole seaside town turns up,
between eight and three.

Hatchbacks and 4×4’s,
and homespun trailers,
and sometimes a woman
and not necessarily on hard times either,
in makeup
with a shopping trolley bulging.

People wrestle with unruly shrubs and gangly little bits of tree,
and grass clippings,
already beginning to cook,
are patted and rounded like a roll-up
–  and it all heads off to reeking vitality.

But the household stuff trails more story.

One woman brought
a lone giant bedstead all of eight feet tall,
and beaten up.

Where had it been in its good years
– holding up its end for couples and midnight feasts
and maybe the slow hours of disease –
or its long hard times,
taking up space but too ungainly to shift?

It went to its logo’d tumbrill like an old priest,
whose martyrdom had begun years before;
etiolated and racked but eloquent of decency and duty
an executioner could end but not undo.

And there’s lots of garden furniture in white or green
and the same from Sarawak to the Isle of Wight.
And TV stands.
And MDF and Melamine in wedding white,
good for just the hard short life we give them.
We break these up carelessly
and now choose something distressed.

This is a time and place of queer redemption
and we queue like careless communicants,
or maybe like lazy Catholics looking for fish and chips,
also on a Friday,
knowing we’ll feel better in ourselves, and it’s very little effort.

The Veolia men guard the portals, mildly mocking,
with hi-viz grins and wary eyes,
their banter all the gruffer for those they know.
They don’t help nor offer the benediction some of us might like.
They marshal us like vergers, we who are variously sheepish and defiant.
They don’t seem to notice our quotidian sin,
our blushes or our indifference,
like gaolers who’ve marshalled better and tougher types than us.

It’s “Not on the floor, on the heap”,
and no please or thank you,
though they cut nice-looking women a little slack.

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Publication date

01 September 2013


RDN's poems