Skip to Content

A Portrait of America in Trash

By Jose Padua

I give to you a portrait of America in trash.
I give it to you with love and respect, America:

mountains of beer cans crumpled, plastic figures
with fallen action, black velvet portraits of Elvis

with broken frames and food stains; I give to you
all the beautiful useless objects of our time built

up into great muddy walls of stench, solemn mon-
uments to steady gimmicks and confidence games,

women and men with voices and no spines. Like
hallelujahs falling on a parking lot's wet pavement,

or tattoos of hearts on wrinkling skin, I am moving on,
trying to find a way around these American mountains.

High above the fruited plain I hover; America, my
lover, I give to you my rotten paradise, I bequeath

to you my hog's view, I toss to you what is heaven
and disposable, a gracious state of nothing that lifts us,

a celebration saying that everything we know is trash.
The poor cast off plastic wrappers, paper soaked with

grease and noisy metal as the rich cast off the poor
like an itch; it's as easy as a blink, witty or dry like

a fly; attracted to what dies, he makes his way toward
the glaze of a poor man's eye. What America makes,

America can throw away: we have the right, right?
I step off the plane and into the flushing river. I am

petrified. I am stone. My eyes are all aquiver.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Jose Padua

Jose Padua’s manuscript, A Short History of Monsters (University of Arkansas, 2019), was chosen by former poet laureate Billy Collins as the winner of the 2019 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Jose Padua’s work appears regularly at the online journal Vox Populi. He lives with his family in Washington, DC.

Other poems by this author