Eric Paul Shaffer

White Trash Landscape

Everything is temporary. Pickets are plywood, walls aluminum,
and gardens plastic. There are no nails, only screws.
Coffee cups and ashtrays yellow through dull afternoons.

Life is narrow, cramped, and long, a ceaseless wandering
back and forth and back: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, bathroom,
kitchen, bathroom, bathroom. There is no living room.

The TV is a cornered god, broken, blind and gaping.
Afghaned couches cram corners, and wrought iron bars
smudged glass dim with daylight and blank at night.

The weather is fine as grit in dry wind. Summer showers
cool concrete. Storms soak beds through ceiling stains.
Some crush walls like empty beer cans in the fist of the wind.

At noon, the sun glowers over brown mountains. Patches
of grass make the world uneven and ankles ache. At night,
stars stare blankly down on unremarkable, unfamiliar faces.

Neighbors weary of family secrets, too close to care.
Everybody beats the god-damned kids. Everybody kicks
the dog. Nobody feeds the cat. The rooster crows

at the darkest hour. Nobody rises. In the hot still haze,
nobody dreams. The only motion is half-hearted dust
devils strewing crushed cups and fast-food franchise bags.

Everybody wishes for somewhere, someone, something
else. Some disappear, but nobody leaves. Tires growl
on gravel, pebbles ping hubcaps and greasy steel chassis.

What is mobile never moves. What once was mobile
rusts on split cinderblocks in ragged brown grass
near splintered picnic tables, grained gray with weather.

What is stationary shimmies in the spin cycle over the edge
of the snapped concrete slab. The mindless revolving
goes on. Nothing is ever fixed, and everything fades.


Eric Paul Shaffer is author of six books of poetry, including A Million-Dollar Bill; Lāhaina Noon; Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen; and Portable Planet. 450 of his poems have appeared in more than 250 reviews in the USA, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Scotland, and Wales. Shaffer has received a number of local literary awards, including the 2002 Elliot Cades Award, a 2006 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Book Award for Lāhaina Noon, and the 2009 James M. Vaughan Award for Poetry. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Honolulu Community College.