E.J. Ladron

Monday, March 29, 1993

Poem for the Foodservice Industry #1

Small bits of candy,
Made to look like cookies,
Artifice twice removed.

In my dream,
They are meticulously wrapped and boxed.
The box is hollow on one side,
And then wrapped again in brittle, crinkly cellophane,
Which keeps the cookies fresh and lets us see them:
A shining example of responsive technology
Meeting the needs of the marketplace.

In my dream,
I seem to carry them with me at all times,
So when I need a dose of wonderment
I need only take them out and look at them
And ask myself, “Now, what more could we do
To pull them even further off the ground?”

Poem for the Foodservice Industry #2

Anyone who,
For any length of time,
Has cleared tables at a restaurant
Begins to dream of bustubs, smooth and grey,
Their hard, durable plastic
Gouged here and there by busboys and –girls rushing past
the corners of the low brick walls
That separate the kitchen from the dining area.

The corners of the bottom of the bustubs
Are rounded,
Merely suggestions.

The bustub rim is fluted all around
So you can clutch it for security,
Which you mask as insouciance,
As you hold an empty unit
by one corner, letting the restaurant
supply product
Dangle from your fingertips.
You swing the sturdy basin back and forth,
Flinging mongrel liquid—granular recordings of
events festive and somber—across
Tiled floors,
Only to have to mop it up later.

Every bustub
Slides into every other bustub
With a rush of air,
Smoothly, perfectly, flawlessly.
One takes far greater care with a bustub full of dirty
Than one does with an empty bustub.

I feel they were made for greater things,
More than their creator had intended.
I see them skidding down a snowy slope,
Bearing screaming children in their berth.
But, just to clarify that they were made
For one use and one use only
(Betraying that he’d indeed imagined other others),
Their creator endowed them with this color,
Almost a non-color:
Not a festive red, nor a cool blue,
Not a hot pink, not a lime green, ripe with possibilities;
Not a shocking orange or yellow, nor an earthy brown;
But grey,
Grey like a cold rain
In October
In East Berlin.


The Urge to Rectify

Someday I will return
To the Howard Johnson in South Bend;
Someday I will venture out late at night
To fill my plastic cups with the cylindrical ice
Produced by the machine humming softly in the lobby;
Someday I will again cross the bridge
Over the pond in the water garden
And feel the roar of the interstate
Reverberate in the handrail.

Someday I will return
To atone for the guilt that dogs me to this day,
For not finishing that cheeseburger at HoJo’s,
For inverting the smile of the waitress
To whom, as a youth, I’d given such false hopes of appetite;
Someday I’ll set things right
In that city of motels
Superimposed on the Indiana plain.


Defusing a Potentially Volatile Situation

The hair
Clinging to my jacket
Did not wish to be plucked.
As if sensing my approach,
It shrank from my touch.


The Absence of Conflict

Today a different strand of hair—
Thicker, shorter, curlier—
Perched on my jacket like before,
Made no move to oppose me.
It sat there,
Not waiting,
Not bending,
Not even defying description.

Dec. 30, 1994

Waste Stream

Flat black paths
—which so often begin and end in death,
which in my waking hours spurn metamorphosis—
spiraling every downwards, a terraced hillside
become a whirlpool;
drainage ditches
—choked with baby dolls, beer cans, beer bottles, a Big Wheel
ca. 1972, cigarette packs, candy bar wrappers, condoms, tampon
applicators, juice bottles, liquor bottles, bald tires, newspaper,
Handi-Wipes, shoes, a purple plastic pacifier from parts unknown
and a whiffle ball —
do not make their way to any estuary;
they burn a hole in the ground,