At the Transfer Station
At the transfer station, life begins again.
The old becomes new. This is the truth.
It’s like Isaiah, the old Hebrew prophet, telling the redemptive story:
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth.”
Well, the Israelites couldn’t see it.
They had in mind just what they wanted
and they didn’t want anything else.
Maybe God had in mind messiah, salvation.
Maybe God had in mind better priests, more faithful people.
Maybe the unification of the twelve tribes, a decent king—
Because the people wanted the IKEA shelving,
some good cable TV, a sense of entitlement and election.
They wanted a convenient life.
Though the truth is, life had never been convenient—
--slaving for the Egyptians, wandering in the desert,
hearing Moses’s over-long sermons and eating
manna, which was like some pre-vegan version
We’re not different. Or truly keen on kale.
But it’s different at the transfer station.
Here, you have some choices.
First, you ditch your garbage in the appointed
mausoleums: paper, here; plastic, there;
glass and cans in the farthest ones.
You stash your empty receptacles back in the car;
now you are light, you are shriven.
Now it’s time to visit the transfer station
shops, one for junk, one for books.
Maybe there’s a snowboard at the junk shop,
but you don’t snowboard, so you don’t take it.
Maybe there’s a bedspring and you and your
spouse have broken yours—maybe you’re both too fat,
or maybe you fucked too much. Anyway, it’s broken.
Load the bedspring on the top of the car.
Hallow your new bed. Have a fond fuck.
Or a good lie-in.
Now visit the transfer station book shop.
You are in the market for some dog-earred Rilke, that German mystic poet who made you believe
in whatever you had to believe in, whenever that was.
This from the Second Elegy:
“Every angel is terrifying.”
Well, duh! “What does this mean?”
as Luther asks, ad nauseum, in the Small Catechism.
It means, Martin, that every angel is terrifying.
Maybe not Clarence, in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
But the rest of them.
So fortunately--so as not to fulfill your own agenda--
You do not find any Rilke at the transfer station.
What do you find? Well, you don’t find much.
Just books that smell, books that have somebody
else’s handwriting in them—an inscription for a
birthday present long since discarded, notes
from a college class, something about Yeats
or atomic weight or a French cognate.You don't find much.
Though still you manage to leave the transfer station
with a full bag. Books you figure you
won’t read, don’t need. Books that leapt,
like fish, into your bag. You will bring them back,
you say, next time you come. And you come often
because you’re not living here for long,
near the transfer station, where every week,
it’s always something new. You’ve only got
a few months, living near the transfer station.
And you want to leave here lighter than when you came.
You take your bag of books back with you
to your temporary home. And what do you find?
Leonard Cohen’s Psalms?
One ofThe Boxcar Children’s books?
A writer you hate
whose book you are happy to find among the discards?
Only, there are no discards. There is only the transfer station
where God—surely jesting—fulfills Isaiah’s earnest asking:
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?”
Fool that I am, I don’t. Fool that I am, I do.