“Collection Day”


As I watched the garbage truck pause by our house, extend a motorized claw, pick up our trash can and dump its contents into the truck I thought of a poem I wrote some years ago. While it is posted on a another part of this site, I wanted to copy it here for those who never saw it. As a child I admired the rough men who picked up the cans, lifted them to their shoulders and dumped them into the open bed of the truck. I couldn’t find an image that shows this earliest method, but at least the picture on the left shows a man lifting a can. The photo on the right shows the extended arm and trash bin similar to those in our neighborhood.

Many jobs used to require quite a lot of physical strength and stamina. In my childhood the garbage men seemed to all be short, strong Italian men. Since my father and his friends were all professionals, the garbage men intrigued me. This poem honors those workers in my childhood viewed out my window but never spoken to.

Collection Day

I miss them
Those muscled men who
Hoisted the cans up and over the truck edge.
Their arms first grew slack
Merely tipping into the compressor bed.
Then, finally, biceps smoothed altogether
Replaced by mechanical limbs
Reaching disgracefully over and up.

17 thoughts on ““Collection Day”

  1. I remember the noise of the metal bins in my younger days. The clanging of the lids, and the bang as the bin was slapped back down outside the house. Then in the summer, there was the smell from the open container. We may have lost the strong men, but at least it is quieter, and kinder on the senses.
    Your poem described the experience very well.
    Best wishes, Pete.


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