Today We Discuss Role Models

From the collection Picture Making, published 2017. The three photos served as the inspiration for the poem. For more information, look here.


Today We Discuss Role Models

A truly functional object. The garbage truck.
Never mind its bright blue paint
its impossible-to-miss oversized barrel of a body.
Never mind the flashing light on the back
the mud flaps
the solid wave of diesel fumes
it sends over your car as you sit behind it at the traffic light.
It is not embarrassed to be hauling around
things that weren’t good enough for you to keep
the plastic wrap you tore off the package of knives.

A truly functional object. The green-painted mailbox.
Flag up, street number clearly visible as is required by the postal regulations
waiting for the messages from anyone anywhere
no matter what the content.
Messages that may not be good enough for you to keep
and may end up in the garbage. Nonetheless,
if you go to the mailbox
to find it empty, it is a disappointment to you.
None of this is the mailbox’s concern.

A truly functional object. The ring bolt on the gatepost.
Partner to the chain that closes off the parking lot
at five o’clock in November, eight o’clock in July –
park hours being sunrise to sunset.
Impartial, the ring bolt does its job.
If you do not leave before the closing time
the ring bolt
will not worry about how you are going to get home
now that your car is penned behind the chain.

A truly functional object
has no ego
has no vanity
has dignity
is to be respected
is to be envied.
Take the time to do so.
Thank you.


12 thoughts on “Today We Discuss Role Models

  1. I too appreciate the functional items of life…toilets, washing machines, dryers, indoor plumbing, showers, garbage trucks. Love what you written here Claudia, we have much to be grateul for in 2017!

  2. Having spent the majority of my life with letterboxes rather than mailboxes, the latter are still a novelty to me. I notice them and do not take them for granted. For the first eighteen months that we lived in America, I would take the mail we needed to send out and walk for 45 minutes, round trip, to the nearest public mailbox to post it. Yes, it took me that long to learn that I could just put my outgoing mail in my own mailbox, raise the flag, and then the mail carrier would pick it up for me. Those are the types of little things that reminded me that much of my adult experience had been reset to zero.

    • I love this story. You are so brave and you just don’t let things take you down, you handle them, in this new world you have chosen. I remember even moving here from another area in the US there were so many subtleties that I missed and some outright puzzles. !!!!

      • I can absolutely imagine that. Different regions and states of the US definitely have such strong identities that they may as well be different countries. The thing about the subtleties is that people don’t think to alert you to them because they don’t even think about them any more.

  3. I like the poem. I remember the strange feeling when I realized that one joy of parenting is being useful to someone.

    The final verse reminds me of the first verse of Emily Dickinson’s Mountains, although they are seemingly about very different objects:

    The Mountains—grow unnoticed—
    Their Purple figures rise
    Without attempt—Exhaustion—
    Assistance—or Applause—

    Perhaps they share common virtues despite their different sizes.

    • There is something straightforward about ordinary objects or sights ,etc. They are, with no pretense or embellishments. Society, etc. is another story. Maybe that’s it.

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