Merry Christmas from Grandma Moses Press.

cactus walmart bag

ODE TO THE WALMART BAG

This White-winged Dove was just

minding her own wingbeats

when all of a sudden her head got bit

completely off by a turkey vulture.

That dead dove made me jump when it

hit the hood of my Chrysler. She was headless

and hardly bleeding. Luckily, I already had

a Walmart bag on my hand due to an

unrelated dog turd situation I’ll address later.

When I picked her up, I felt her warm body

through the plastic. That’s one thing I love

about Walmart bags, they can tell you

exactly how alive or dead a dove is.

Sometimes a memory can blow into your life

like a Walmart bag blows into a mulberry tree.

When I was a boy in Montgomery,

Mourning Doves kept getting their heads snapped off

by this snapping turtle in my dad’s koi pond.

The turtle waited for their beaks to break the surface.

I’d pick them up with a Walmart bag on my hand

and escort them like a southern gentleman

to the dumpster. I was so happy not to be barehanded.

They weren’t always Walmart bags.

Sometimes they were Piggly Wiggly bags or A&P bags,

just like in John Updike’s short story “A&P”,

but there was no girl in a plaid green two piece,

and there was no married man at the register

shaking out paper bags as gently as peeling a peach

because this was the early 1980s, The Golden Age

of the Plastic Bag. Well, I take that back. We did have

one girl in a plaid green two piece named Mary-Aileen

who lived across the street from me in Montgomery.

I remember her saying, plastic bags always feel like

they’re gonna break, but never do.

Thus began my love affair.

Of course it really started with Sten Thulin,

the Swedish engineer with a deviated septum

who invented the modern plastic bag in 1962.

But this poem isn’t about dinosaurs or crude,

or his nostrils and how much air flows through,

or the frivolous abuse of a single-use.

No, this is about how right after lunch

I used a Walmart bag on my right hand

to remove baby turds from our new sofa.

And about how after that, I used a Walmart bag

to pick up a dozen backyard dog turds

laced with long grey hairs.

They were so tender and fresh and brown

they made me vomit in my mouth.

But the efficiency of protection the bag

offered my hand, and the efficacy

the bag afforded this situation

was somehow beautiful and classic

like Ali MacGraw in Love Story,

and then a second time in Dynasty.

I was at a National Grocers convention once

where a young man stood up and asked about

the environmental ramifications of the plastic bag.

It took nearly 500 years for the laughter to die down.

The chairman said finally, look, sure,

plastic bags can be carried great distances

by ocean currents and some say they can

“strangle” creatures of the sea, but what if  you

were all alone on a dinghy

with a pit bull mix, and a baby, and suddenly

you needed to rectify a fecal situation

but you refused to use your bare hands,

what would you do?  Thankfully, these days

you can just reach down and grab a Walmart bag

from atop the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

So next time you see a Walmart bag

sun baked and wind torn on barbed wire

or snagged on a saguaro, know at one time,

it was a lonely gray parachute,

innocent, unemployed and free

without the faintest idea of a ballast,

a container riding the jet stream

like a bald eagle, a vessel

with no idea that one day

it would rise again, destined

for dog turds, baby turds

and sometimes headless birds.

By Tim Staley

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