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Sunday, November 21, 2021


by Gil Hoy

Dan Hudson. "Garbage Can" (1992), oil on panel, 24×34 inches.

On Wednesdays, 
I take my trash down to the curb. 

There's a blue bin for recyclables, 
a black bin for regular trash
and a brown bin for yard waste. 

You can tell a lot about a man 
from the contents of his trash. 
Our neighbor is obsessed with Covid 
and now buys most of her things 
on Amazon. Her son got sick a year ago, 
was in intensive care for three weeks 
and then died. Her blue bin is filled 
with broken down boxes every week. 
Her husband stays inside and has started 
drinking again. There are three or four
empty wine or bourbon bottles 
in their blue bin every week. 
A divorcee a few houses down  
worries about getting old. Her black bin 
holds the week's trash from products 
promising to make her gray hair brown again 
and remove the wrinkles from her face. 
She's put on weight since her husband left her 
for a younger woman five years ago. 
There are often three or four 
empty pizza boxes in her black bin. 
You can tell a lot about a woman
from the contents of her trash. 
Another neighbor has three birch trees 
next to his driveway. His yard waste bin 
is filled with grass the yard boy cut 
and birch tree branches that once encroached 
upon his driveway. His shiny Mercedes 
can now get in and out again without a scratch. 
His regular trash bin has empty pill bottles 
used to keep his blood pressure down. He bought 
the Mercedes and keeps his yard carefully 
manicured to keep up with his neighbors.
A house up the road has two recyclable bins 
that are always full. The house's black bin 
never has much trash at all. The owner works 
for a company that reduces greenhouse gases 
and makes our water cleaner. The owner 
attends political events most nights 
focusing on climate change. 
You can tell a lot about people 
from the trash they don't have.
A neighbor on the next street over 
is an accountant. His blue bin is filled 
with shredded paper: tax schedules, 
financial statements and old tax returns. 
By the time April 15 comes around, 
he has three blue bins that are overflowing.
Another one of my neighbors 
doesn't play by the rules.  
He puts his trash out early most weeks. 
And then he's fined by our Town. 
He was arrested a while back 
for stealing money from his clients 
and had to spend a few years 
away from his family. 
You can tell a lot about a person  
from how they handle their trash.
And as for me, my trash is not 
what it used to be. My wife passed away 
suddenly and the kids have all grown up 
and moved away. I don't talk with them 
or see them much anymore. 
I miss the deflated balloons from birthday parties 
and worn out hockey skates that used to be 
in my black bin. And the leaves that filled 
my yard waste bin when I could sometimes 
get the boys to rake. I miss my wife's 
empty fancy shampoo bottles 
I used to put in my blue bin.
On a good week, when I'm eating well, 
my bins may be as much as a quarter full. 
But most weeks, they're as empty 
as an old man's broken heart.  
You can tell a lot about a man 
from the contents of his trash. 

Editor's note: The losses mentioned in the final four stanzas of the poem are suffered by the poem's Speaker and not, thankfully, by its author. 
Gil Hoy is a widely published Boston poet and writer who studied poetry and writing at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. While at BU, Hoy was on the wrestling team and finished in second place in the New England University Wrestling Championships at 177 lbs. He served as an elected Brookline, Massachusetts Select Board Member for four terms. Hoy is a semi-retired trial lawyer. His work has recently appeared in Best Poetry Online, Muddy River Poetry Review,  Tipton Poetry Journal, Rusty Truck,  Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Penmen Review, Misfit Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Chiron Review, The New Verse News, and elsewhere. Hoy was nominated for a Best of the Net award last year.