I carry out the trash, for example,
if nagged about it constantly enough,
tugging the bag from its chrome container,
twisting and tying the top, snapping
out a proud new bag whose dreams of glory
will crash on reefs of spoiled pears and used Kleenex.
And I can do other important things,
like go down in the basement. Come back up.
Or, if there’s a scrap of paper in the yard,
I go get it. Or shrug. It’s just paper,
you know. Unless it’s a hundred-dollar bill.
If you see a hundred-dollar bill
in my yard, leave it. It’s mine. I have proof.
If you see it, knock on my door, tell me.
I will mention your honesty often,
especially at the liquor store
when I’m spending my hundred-dollar bill.
Roland Sodowsky grew up on a small ranch in western Oklahoma. He has three degrees from Oklahoma State University and studied Old High German as a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. He has taught linguistics, literature, and creative writing at OSU, the University of Calabar in Nigeria, the University of Texas, Sul Ross State University, and Missouri State University. He has published poetry, short stories, or novellas in Atlantic Monthly, American Literary Review, Glimmer Train, Midwest Quarterly, and many other literary magazines. His collection of short stories, Things We Lose (U. Missouri Pr), won the Associated Writing Programs’ Award for Short Fiction. He received the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Short Fiction Award for Interim in the Desert (TCU Pr), the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines-General Electric Award for fiction, and has been a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts award. Now retired from Missouri State, he and his wife, the poet Laura Lee Washburn, live in Pittsburg, Kansas when he, his brother, and his son are not engaged in a continuing battle with the mesquites and cedars on their family homestead.
Monthly Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices. She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.
2 thoughts on “I Am Useful by Roland Sodowsky”
I enjoyed this poem because we are groomed to revere Value and the Valuable. This little piece reminds me that sometimes ordinary
is ok too. In fact, more than ok.
This could be my husband. I love this one.