Four Teabags a Day by William Doreski

We’re so poor we comb dumpsters
for teabags to re-use. The chill
of early winter dark appalls us
with cries of ghouls in the suburbs
and groaning in city basements
where rapists imprison young girls,
but we scavenge undeterred.

We should apply for work at Home
Depot or Wal-Mart and direct
customers to bargains no sane
person resists. But our pride
in the printed word undoes us
although we haven’t attempted
to write poems or stories for years.

The dumpsters crackle with rats.
Competing has attuned us
to odors we’d otherwise group
in a single communal stink.
Italian food, cat litter, grease
from diner grills. We avoid
ripping open certain garbage bags
that contain dead pets or infants.

Better to never realize
that the large green bag at the bottom
features Grandma in a fetal pose,
her drained face still open-eyed
from gazing into the blank
of the pillow that smothered her
while she watched her favorite soaps.

Every dawn we scrounge four teabags
and return to boil water on
a hotplate so old its cord
is cloth-wound rather than plastic.
The cold deepens in late afternoon
and we drink our brew and discuss
the lives we’d recast in fiction
if only we’d been there to live them.


William Doreski’s most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009).  His work has appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Natural Bridge.

© 2012 William Doreski