Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate.

Today Elizabeth Tibbetts of Hope writes of a character well known to those who pass him by in their cars. Yet he remains mysterious.

The Saint of Returnables 

By Elizabeth Tibbetts 

Our saint of returnables is back, riding, slow

mile after mile, along the spring roadside,

baskets strapped to his old bike, plastic bags

hung from the handlebars. His gaze averts

to the ditch as he watches for what glitters,

each bottle and can he picks, a nickel towards

sustenance. He pedals, March through November,

through good and God-awful weather, claiming

what’s been tossed out or lost until his bike

is as packed as a mule. When he glances up

we see his face full-on, a face expression

has been erased from, so he looks as though

he has lost his own story somewhere down the road.

But what looks simple could be a twisting path

that would lead to a man’s heart. Not the tough

muscle pumping spring air into his thighs, but

that imagined space of the soul, where he stores

everything, and watches and waits for what’s

to come. Yet we’re already done, having driven fast

past him – past wood frogs’ muttering talk

and blackbirds’ red-winged flashes in alders,

past swatches of witch grass and day lilies, leaves

so fierce they push up green inches every day. 

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2010 Elizabeth Tibbetts. Reprinted from Maine in Four Seasons, Down East Books, 2010, by permission of Elizabeth Tibbetts.

Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, special consultant to the Maine poet laureate, at [email protected] or 228-8263.