Trash Day

A poem by Vivian Wagner

Photo of trash cans (one holding a piece of artwork) foregrounded in a beach landscape

We went to the dump
once a month, taking a
truckload of refuse to
unload and forget.
I loved the created
landscape, with its
mattresses and boxes,
wires and string,
fish skeletons and sandals,
rotten remnants
of lettuce, resignation
letters from nannies—
all with the heady smell
of endless possibility.
Trash is a naked opera
sung under a moon
obscured by filth.
The lady of this heap
pulls her voice from
what’s left of lives
like she’s making
small talk at a bar.
We listen because
it’s the only sound
we can hear, the only
song we understand.


Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she’s an associate professor of English at Muskingum University. Her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, Muse/A Journal, Forage Poetry Journal, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Gone Lawn, The Atlantic, Narratively, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Bending Genres, and other publications. She’s the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington); a full-length poetry collection, Raising (Clare Songbirds Publishing House); and three poetry chapbooks: The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), and Curiosities (Unsolicited Press)

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