To find where the Johnsons used to live
You have to turn up the old dirt road,
Hang left, then go on past the splintered gate
of the town dump
(You’d drag your bags of trash out of the trunk or down from the truck bed.
And just leave them on top of the pile).
My mother didn’t like me going to their house.

It was farther up that road, near the rocks.
Hard to miss.
The empty ruined barn,
The wrecked Chevy in the front.
Denise and I’d climb in and pretend to drive.
In the kitchen, usually a small pale child or two
I liked to work the hand pump in their sink.

Flowered linoleum in their front sitting room.
Their dad’s cigar butts in the rusty can on the sideboard.
The inside toilet didn’t flush so you had to use the john out back
On up past the wandering chickens.
We had hideouts in the woods
And we built a fort behind the woodpile.

They’re gone now.

Chip spent some time in jail and then he left the area.
Denise got pregnant in tenth grade.

The lot’s been up for sale a long time.
They’re gone.
Stuff though. It stays.
The dump’s shut down, but
People still sneak their junk in after dark.

The rotted cardboard boxes: Mountains of them,
Huge wet bags of dripping rotten tomatoes

Beer cans: Schlitz and Bud
Mail, unopened
Red shorts with the seat worn through
The pile of single socks
Dog food cans
Dead lightbulbs
Wet clumps of cut grass
Pond scum
Squashed possum.
Empty vacuum cleaner bags, cloth diapers
Fanta bottles
Torn birthday paper and ribbons
Canceled checks.

It’s still around—
Not shredded stacked or sorted
Just there.
Earth coat of many colors.

About the Author

Eleanore Lee has been writing fiction and poetry for many years in addition to her regular job as a legislative analyst for the University of California system. She has a BA from Barnard College in English. She has also worked as an editor at Columbia Teachers College and as a stringer for Time Inc. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in several journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, CQ (California Quarterly), Crack the Spine, Existere Journal, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Penmen Review, The Portland Review, and Tampa Review. She was selected as an International Merit Award Winner in Atlanta Review’s 2008 International Poetry Competition. She also won first place in the November 2009 California State Poetry Society contest.