Take-Out

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
–Leonard Koren

At the bottom of the pasture,
a house trailer with one of its
long walls neatly removed
like the lid on a Japanese bento,
so anyone can take in its contents
with a single glance, flashing by
on the highway, sunroof down,
radio blaring, & look —
there’s a wee kitchen,
a living room with sagging sofa-bed,
two bedrooms & a walk-in closet
gaping empty: neither clothes
nor the bodies that slipped in
& out of them, white as rice,
growing round on next to nothing
& never feeling full.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

16 Comments


  1. Wow Dave this is wonderful. Especially from “walk-in closet” to the end – one of my favorite things I’ve seen in your writing, I think!

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  2. The only thing about this poem that doesn’t express wabi-sabi is that the poem itself isn’t imperfect or incomplete. The exposed house innards traveling down the highway make an indelible image. I agree with Karen that the end is terrific — I especially like the last two lines.

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  3. Almost like looking at a doll-house – a very visual poem, with physical associations in the ‘sagging’, ‘walk-in’, ‘never feeling full’…
    I like it!

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  4. Hi Karen – Really? Gosh. I wrote it in less than an hour!

    Richard – I just added another line at the beginning to try and make it clear that the trailer is immobile, but visible from the highway. So your comment was really helpful in letting me know that the image wasn’t clear as originally written.

    It might be a more compelling image if the trailer were in motion, I guess. More surreal. One does often see halves of mobile homes being flatbedded about, but they tend to be brand-new, and covered over with plastic on the open side.

    Fred – Thanks. You’re right, that is a pivot-point, I guess.

    marja-leena – In fact, I used a dollhouse simile in the first draft, but took it out because it didn’t seem necessary (and clashed with the bento simile). Good to hear it still evokes that image, though.

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  5. I lke the images in this, dave. An empty trailer has such a different feel than a sagging old farm house. You convey the tinny-ness of structure, and the impermanence so well.

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  6. I like the fact that it’s immobile but the viewer is mobile. It’s something you flash by from a car or bus window. Reminds me of scenes I took in, still vivid, from bus rides in Mexico. I’m usually the driver when I’m on the road these days and so I see so much less of the surroundings than you’d see idly gazing out a window while being transported somewhere. Anyway, very nice, indeed.

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  7. What a sentence! I got that the trailer wasn’t moving. It was a hard earned discovery and the susbstance of my enjoyment of the poem. I evolved, escaping the car interior and finding myself in the landscape. You raised a question of just who is eyeing who that required solving. Finding the answer in the grain of the grammar was satifying indeed. The bracket of the original first and last sentences I found clarifying and pointed me toward a solution:

    “A house trailer
    …never feeling full.”

    At some point I realized that a house trailer going down the road would have plastic wrap.

    The question of what

    “white as rice
    growing round..”

    modified was also a challenge as I first attached it to the contents of the trailer. The difficulties of that formulation promoted intense visualization of the trailer’s contents. When I got that it was the outside of the trailer was “white as rice” it was only after clambering over all the furniture, going in and out of closets and clothes till finally I got out and took a walk around the outside of the trailer. When I did that I knew for sure the trailer wasn’t moving.

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  8. I’ve never commented on a poem before because I often slip in words that aren’t there when I read on an illuminated screen, writing my own counter-poem that may have nothing to do with your poem.

    But I was curious–I get an atmosphere of decay from the poem, and the last four lines make me think of maggots. Did you mean to compare the former human tenants to maggots?

    (My counter-poems are often rather creepy, and frequently involve our arthropod friends.)

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  9. robin andrea – Thanks. I guess I have an affinity for abandoned structures – I could probably fill a whole chapbook with poems like this.

    Richard – At some level, I think the wabi-sabi aesthetic is simply realism. The equation of beauty with perfection is a kind of mind-fuck IMO.

    leslee – Thanks. Yeah. Though usually I’m too sleep-deprived on long bus journeys to absorb all that much. In this case, it was something I saw last Sunday, while riding with L.

    Bill – It’s kind of fun to hear in such detail how a poem was read! I’m surprised it wasn’t obvious that “white on rice” modified “bodies,” though. I’d have put a semicolon, a dash, or even a period after “them” if I’d wanted to suggest that the following phrase referred to the trailer as a whole.

    Rebecca – Thanks for the comment. Counter-poems always welcome! All reader reactions are interesting to me.

    Did you mean to compare the former human tenants to maggots?

    Not consciously, no. At the most superficial level, of course, “never feeling full” echoes the typical complaint Americans have about Chinese or Japanese food – half an hour after eating, you’re hungry again. But beyond that, I think what I was getting at with the Japanese bento imagery was the simulaneous attraction and repulsion we tend to feel toward the exotic. And as you know, rural poverty is treated as an exotic thing by a hell of a lot of folks.

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  10. You wrote: “Fun to hear in detail how a poem was read”?

    Misread, don’t you mean? Nothing like commenting to put on display my impoverished reading skills! Embaressment is oh so stimulating and envigorating! Any difference between dash and semicolon is entirely vague and whimsical to me. It must be astounding to you to hear the anomolous content I find in one of your poems. D’ya think it might all be due to my computer screen?

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  11. Is it true that the postmodernists say that “all readings are misreadings,” or did I just make that up? No need to be embarrassed – unless you want to be.

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  12. Very cool.

    I just made my first bento this week, incidentally: a brownie and three strawberries. *laugh* I, too, got the maggot image from the white rice, for whatever that’s worth to you.

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  13. Huh. O.K. Thanks for the feedback!

    To qualify as a bento, your packed lunch must include at least one small pickle.

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