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When I buy bagged corn chips, a bag of potatoes,
and a bag of cheddar cheese popcorn
and take these bagged items to the cash register if I don’t

watch, the cashier will throw these bagged items into a bag

and if I say there’s no need to bag these bagged things
she will look at me as if I just sneezed a volcanic truck.

What, no bag? Are you sure you don’t want these bagged?

And I really have to think about it,
not whether I need these bagged items further bagged

but how to answer her
and I tell her do you know over one hundred billion bags

fill our landfills, hang like icicles off power lines,
float on the oceans,
not total, but added every year
and she cocks her head as if to say,

That’s an interesting bit of trivia,
a social problem on a world scale,
but how does that apply to us? You’ve got three items

here at this register which need to be bagged.
You didn’t bring your personal bag to bag them in,

I’ve got two more hours in my shift,
working for minimum wage plus a retirement t-shirt

and most normal people bag even bagged items.

And I’m so worried her head might explode

from this sudden paradigm-shift,
this unexpected global overview,
that an argument might erupt

spilling onto the street consuming the city

and the more I think about it,
what’s this all about but containment,

what’s America about but containment,
be it drug suspects, terror suspects, Commies,

toxic spills seasonal epidemics unorthodoxies

thoughts that make too much sense

or little chips, pre-popped popcorn, and fat potatoes?

And if I don’t catch her at the right moment,
if I tell her after she bags my pack of chewing gum
in a huge plastic bag that I don’t need a bag for that
she will take the item out of the bag and crumple up the bag

which completely misses the point,

and I’ve lost so much sleep over this

that I now find myself sleepwalking

with bags under my eyes.


"Containment" by Steven Siegel. Mixed media collage. 

Click here for Steven's page.


There was once another star of Bethlehem,
a steel plant in Lackawanna, three miles long,
one mile deep, clanging, screeching, and rumbling 

amidst the sweat & work of twenty thousand men.

Fresh out of college, after trying my luck
at unloading semis, stamping soup and tuna fish cans

to the commands of clipboard-carriers
who called me boy, and mopping up senior piss
off of nursing home floors,

I came out of the plant’s Main Office

wearing a virgin-white helmet

expecting to meet a legion of rednecks

in the shops, furnaces, mills, and ovens,

men who came home dusty & grimy

to live simple with their families,

and worked instead with a geologist, a pilot,
a model train collector, a skydiver,
a Christian who taught karate,
a drug dealer who sampled much of his inventory,

a man who quit a Catholic seminary

when he heard a bishop say shit,

several electric guitarists, a poet,
a John Bircher, a communist,

and two socialists—

men who worked but weren’t defined

by the coke they cooked,
the iron they poured,
the steel they forged, rolled

and cut. The work they did built a nation

and allowed them to live the lives
they really wanted & to make the children

who’d become lawyers, doctors, teachers,

and unemployment claims processors
who had no idea how useful they’d be one day.


"Steeling America No. 15" by George Grace. Acrylic on canvas. 

Click here for George's artist page. 



Oh. The downspout wasn’t screwed into the gutter.

That was really stupid, relying on it to steady myself.

Yep, this is not a drill. I’m going down.
I should let go of it.

I’ll need both hands to get me out of this mess.


Ladder’s gone. Can’t grab that.

Shit, one tiny mistake. Does it have to be fatal?

Maybe not. Relax, let it happen.
You can’t stop it anyway.

If I twist around like a cat
and push hard enough off this siding
I’ll hit that garage roof and it’ll break my fall.

It worked for Spider-Man.

Such a lovely autumn day.
The quality of light dancing across the autumn leaves

is like an eye-symphony.

Okay, the pushing-off part
didn’t work as well as I’d hoped,
but if I can land in those leaves,
maybe my upper torso will be spared injury.

I can’t die yet. Not at thirty.
I don’t want an obituary that reads:

            He was, well, a guy who,

            well, breathed and ate.

            He also had hair.

            And fingernails.

The homeowner is going to be very upset.
I thought I was destined for greater things,

none of which will happen if I’m dead.

I won’t be able to make any more art,

learn the lead to “Stairway to Heaven,”

or quit smoking.

I’d like to get laid a few more times—
at least once more, one for the angels,

by someone who loves me. For a change.

If I live, I’ll have to clean up the paint.

Can’t have a bunch of friends at my funeral,

spewing banalities like:


            He looks better dead than alive.
            I think Ronald Reagan drove him to this,

            with that trickle-down bullshit.

I haven’t finished writing my play,
I want to write a book or two of poetry.

A novel. Take up yoga.

That window needs glazing.
The owner’s probably losing a lot of heat out of it.

Glad I got to see the Grand Canyon this summer.

I wish I’d gotten my bachelor’s degree.

I could go for some barbecued wings right about now.

Amazing I’m able to think so many things,

given the time I have to impact.

If I survive, I should write a poem about this.

Nah, that’s a dumb idea.


"Contemplation" by Wendy Caldwell Maloney. Mixed Media. 

Click here for Wendy's artist page.


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