Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: The Saints of Returnables

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Today Elizabeth Tibbetts of Hope writes of a character well known to those who pass him by in their cars. Yet he remains mysterious.

The Saint of Returnables by Elizabeth Tibbetts

Our saint of returnables is back, riding, slow
mile after mile, along the spring roadside,
baskets strapped to his old bike, plastic bags
hung from the handlebars. His gaze averts
to the ditch as he watches for what glitters,
each bottle and can he picks, a nickel towards
sustenance. He pedals, March through November,
through good and God-awful weather, claiming
what?s been tossed out or lost until his bike
is as packed as a mule. When he glances up
we see his face full-on, a face expression
has been erased from, so he looks as though
he has lost his own story somewhere down the road.
But what looks simple could be a twisting path
that would lead to a man?s heart. Not the tough
muscle pumping spring air into his thighs, but
that imagined space of the soul, where he stores
everything, and watches and waits for what?s
to come. Yet we?re already done, having driven fast
past him?past wood frogs? muttering talk
and blackbirds? red-winged flashes in alders,
past swatches of witch grass and day lilies, leaves
so fierce they push up green inches every day.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2010 Elizabeth Tibbetts. Reprinted from Maine in Four Seasons, Down East Books, 2010, by permission of Elizabeth Tibbetts. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.