american poverty is a house full of junk, Ben says.
the second vacuum, the third picnic cooler.
the how-to books. an unread self-help section.
the bric-a-brac stores at auction. “things you’d buy
for your grandkids,” antiques roadshow hopefuls.
his mother has fabrics for drapes but is “too kind to charge,”
keeps hand-me-down clothes. “no idea what’s in her room.”
it’s a time debt, Ben says. an allegiance to the past, I say.
a subservience to the future, he says.
I recall my blood father’s warehouse full of “collectibles,”
my blood mother’s apartment filled with takeout containers.
Ben’s father retired wealthy. now his friends talk like this:
“I purchased this for that much and that for this much…”
these are fixed variables: my blood uncle’s commitments
to overwork and cat hair, to records he hasn’t heard in years.
my adoptive family, at least, knows how to handle space.
they’re teaching me the neatness and economy of a Markman,
a penny pincher. (he hands me a Costco membership card,
says “now you’re an honorary Jew.”)
my blood family (Catholic) sprawls out in endless half-filled boxes
clinging to ratty linens. “utterly inept at anything but art,” I say.
I thank the stars for my machinist Markmans. they lack imagination
but know how to keep a room clean, fix things, keep only what’s used.
recently, I saw my father shredding his documents from the three-year divorce
from my blood mother. rarely have I admired a garbage bag more.
today I had my father eradicate a stack of my browning 80s and 90s comics.
books are my vice. I came home last night with 40 new ones.
they had an all-you-can-stuff-into-one-of-our-tote-bags for $20 special
at Book Culture. by which I mean, they always have this special.
I go 2 or 3 times a year and come home with dozens of neglected
poetry collections, critical texts, rejects, remainders, magazines, magazines.
at his graphic design internship, Claire said yesterday,
the office had organized books according to color- COLOR!
“they were set pieces,” he says.
my father binge-watches televsion programs about hoarders,
says our building is full of them. at least half of our neighbors.
seems true. our next-door neighbor Lilli can usually be found
puttering in her storage closet for meaningless objects.
last time I was in there, I pulled out a string of plastic grapes.
abbondanza, my father says. I am trying to show you
what you did not have in youth.