Devon Brenner – Two Poems

Loser

If you find things, you are a finder
If you keep things, you are a keeper
If you save things, you are a saver
If you lose things, you are a loser

–Carl Sandburg

It’s true. I am a loser.
Not just the misplaced office keys
the purse I left in a Denny’s bathroom
at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon
a day before a flight out of Phoenix.
I lose things. A pocket full of cash
I dropped at a festival that I could have used
for beer, or for dinner,
and a drawer full of clothes
abandoned in the dresser of a motel room
outside Philadelphia—a swim suit, a pair of socks,
things I didn’t really need.
I once coasted on empty
up to a gas pump in Bucksnort, Tennessee,
and could not find my wallet,
left at a coffee shop in Nashville.
I’d been leaving the waitress a tip.

She should have given me a tip.
“Honey,” she might have said,
walking up on her crepe-soled shoes,
“Hold on tight to your stuff.
That man of yours, your children,
they’re as easy to leave behind
as a pocketbook. Easier.
They’ve got their own legs.
They can just walk away.”

**

Gulf Coast

On closet shelves and in the junk drawers
of trailers on cinderblocks
and the half-renovated houses of survivors
from Waveland to Bayou Le Batre
are packages of economy toothbrushes
and sticks of sport endurance deodorant,
boxes of Kotex the men who stored them will never use.
Up north and out east,
we gathered our extra clothing,
the jeans that no longer fit, our faded t-shirts,
and packed them into cardboard boxes with our grief.
We sealed washcloths with bars of soap
and travel size toothpaste into Ziploc survival kits
we sent down with bottles of water and our prayers.
Now our discarded towels sit in rag piles
in back rooms that may never get repainted.
No one needs that many tubes of lotion.
We could not sit idle, and so delivered
crates of books to libraries with no floors, no shelves,
their librarians shuffled off to Houston, to Little Rock.
Three years later, a dozen pianos sit unplayed in Bay St. Louis,
in the Second Street Elementary gymnasium.

We sent what we could,
such useless items—
too many and never enough—
a negligible levee against the sea of destruction.

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