The Garbage Sacrifices
All over America after dinner
tonight you can see them:
in kitchen after kitchen
woman after woman is bending
over the garbage bag, scraping
her plate clean.
Behind her the family lines up,
each to scrape his plate. Bits
of glistening fat, bread crusts,
bones, stumps of asparagus,
It’s all thrown into the bag.
The families fill up all the bags.
After dark, the youngest son
brings the bag into the alley
and stuffs it into a can, crushing
the bags other families have already
put there. The families must fill
up all the cans.
Early in the morning before it’s
really light, the men come
for all the bags while
the families are asleep.
But every so often
a family forgets
to put its bag in the can
and the men come and find
that a bag is missing.
And on those dark mornings
when the men come
and find that a bag is missing,
one family always disappears.
Two prematurely gray men accost me
outside of the store, seizing my wrists.
They say (both raising a fist),
“You have merchandise on you that you took for free.”
I smirk and say, “O yeah? Prove it!
I didn’t do anything at all.”
They advise me of my rights:
I can make one phone call.
They produce a professional photographer.
He begins to pass out snapshots to everybody.
He has about thirty or forty, maybe more.
(The photographer has been through all this before.)
It is me all right, slyly stuffing things
down my pants, up my sleeves, in my socks,
into secret pockets sewn onto my coat,
hiding all sorts of stuff, pulling out the stops.
People are aghast. They look at the photographs,
then up at me, then back again,
hardly believing their eyes.
It’s me all right. (What a surprise.)
The two men bring me to the back room
and make me sign a confession.
They put their cigarettes on my face
and pull off my fingernails to teach me a lesson.
They say, “What you have done is very wrong, you know.”
I answer, “I was going to put it all back,
only I forgot. Honestly, I meant to pay, for sure.”
They say, “They all say that.”
They tell me to come clean, cough it up.
I remove a Wilson basketball, official size,
from my back pocket, a prize turkey,
I jiggle out of my pants leg.
I zip open my fly, reach in and pull out
a dozen different credit cards, several noisemakers,
party hats for all three of us, a few other things.
I give them back their wallets and wedding rings.
I lean towards one of them, reach behind his ear
and produce two hardboiled eggs.
I extract a chicken from between his partner’s legs
and stick it in his hat.
They say, “We’ve met your kind before. No respect.
Think everything’s a joke. You fucking reject.
We’re not through with you yet.
Now, what else did you get?”
Of the literary community of the 1970s, Winch writes: “I credit Michael Lally and, later, Doug Lang with being the two most significant catalysts in those days…The counterculture was still in full swing in those days, so the networks were political, sexual, cultural, as well as esthetic…Most of the local poets—the Mass Transit and Folio veterans—all lived in DC, mostly in Dupont Circle, and spent a good deal of time together. Eating. Drinking. Smoking. Writing poems. Going to movies. Smoking some more.”
Terence Patrick Winch has published eight full-length books of poems, numerous chapbooks, one book of nonfiction on his experiences playing traditional Irish music, and one collection of short stories. Some of his books include: The Known Universe (Hanging Loose, 2017), This Way Out (Hanging Loose, 2014), The Drift of Things (The Figures, 2001), and The Great Indoors (Story Line Press, 1989). His first book, Boning Up, was published by Some Of Us Press in 1972. Winch is the winner of an American Book Award, a Columbia Book Award, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. He has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” radio program, and was the subject of a profile on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Winch is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the DC Commission on the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Fund for Poetry. His work is included in more than 40 anthologies, including The Oxford Book of American Poetry and five Best of American Poetry collections. Winch has also written for The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, The Village Voice, The Wilson Quarterly, The Dictionary of Irish Literature, and The Oxford Companion to American Poetry. In the early 1970s, Winch was one of the organizers of the Mass Transit poets, a group that organized poetry readings and published a literary journal. He is one of the co-founders of Some Of Us Press. He has also been closely associated with the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in lower Manhattan. Born in the Bronx to Irish immigrants, Winch has also played traditional Irish music all his life. In 1977, he started a band with his brother Jesse Winch called Celtic Thunder, and recorded three albums with the group. His new CD is This Day Too: Music from Irish America (Celtic Thunder Music, 2017). The band won an INDIE Award for Best Celtic Album, and in 1992, Winch was named by Irish America Magazine as one of its “Top 100 Irish Americans.” To read more by this author: Terence Winch: Winter 2002 Terence Winch: DC Places Issue