Fred and Euphemia have the best trash.
They really do. It’s hard not to stare:
cardboard forts from flat screen TVs,
take out containers formed into purple
mountain majesties. Fred is famous
for his towers of lobster claws clawing
chandeliers, his showers of champagne
empties that cascade. Who wants
real pain when you can have champagne?
Euphemia likes to quip. What a card
she is, carting her crates of cracked
crystal to the curb, her cups of curdled
cream, guaranteed to replace wrinkles
with wisdom, guaranteed to please.
You’d like them, you really would,
as they attend to their shimmering pile,
all they’ve discarded, all they’ve
consumed, patiently waiting for
the truck that never arrives. Each week
the neighborhood awards them first prize.
The Robber Baron’s Tale
A robber baron whose life is barren
searches for the Buddha in Budapest,
but to no avail. In Vail, he seeks
an accountant who is accountable,
a doctor who does not doctor
the results. It gets to him how much
it gets to him, how his secret life
is still a secret even to him. Don’t run
if no one is chasing you, a passerby
tells him. That night his dreams
stop their dreaming but for a voice
that repeats: What we call the world
is just a map of the world, and one day
it will all be washed to sea.
Susan Johnson earned her MFA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she teaches writing. Johnson's first book, Impossible Is Nothing, was published spring 2011 by Finishing Line Press. She lives in South Hadley MA.