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Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: The Saint of Returnables
Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate
Today’s reader’s choice from a past column was chosen by Nancy Winetrout of Winthrop, who writes that in this poem by Elizabeth Tibbetts, “the mundane is elevated to poetry, making me pause to consider the words, the man, and his life.”
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 email@example.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.