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.
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.