Scrap-Metal Collector

by Maureen Tolman Flannery

The sides of his truck extend toward heaven
in this scaffold of Babel constructed of scrap.
A broken clothes dryer on the bottom
speaks a language of desert wind;
bent window fans whisper sea breeze.
In the idiom of old cash register bells
the bottom line is expounded
by a dented gray office desk.
Bike frames wedged at the edges say mobility,
above the arrested speed, haltingly uttered
by a Corvette bumper and miss-matched hub-caps.
A tangle of copper tubing hisses in sibilant tongues
at hunks of rusted sewer pipe
turning back in circumlocution.
Cacophonous nut-and-bolt chatter
clangs against heavy accents of old chrome,
obscures dialects of cast iron.
Everything expounds on the memory
of having been differently used.
Javier and his son drive these dying languages
through alleys and back-lots around the city
piling them higher and higher,
never quite able to climb into paradise.


Maureen Tolman Flannery’s most recent book of poems about Latin America is Destiny Whispers to the Beloved. Other volumes of her work include Ancestors in the Landscape, Secret of the Rising up, A Fine Line and Knowing Stones. Although she grew up in a Wyoming sheep ranch family, Maureen and her actor husband Dan have raised their four children in Chicago. Her work has appeared in fifty anthologies and over a hundred literary reviews, recently includingBirmingham Poetry Review, Xavier Review, Calyx, Pedestal, Atlanta Review, Out of Line, and
North American Review.