Joseph Milford, Community Service: Sentenced to 10 Days: D.U.I.

Joseph Milford

Shirts must remain tucked-in at all times.
No cell phones. No jewelry. Grab an orange
Vest. Sit still until called. No talking.


Picking up trash at the Public Works.
Go inside to take a piss—find some old leather gloves
Marked TERRY. Put them on. Water fountain.
Back to the trash. We are picking up debris
Inside a fenced in junkyard. Making smaller piles into
Larger piles for our sins.


On bus, I sit on the front seat.
Huge black buck with prison tats says,
“That’s my seat.” I see all the potential
Ways this could end. “You are gonna have to
Move me then.” Thundering silent pause.
He punches me in the arm, sits down, says,
“I was just fuckin’ with ya.” Van deflates.


Cleaning the stadiums after Friday night games.
On the bank in front of the field house—used condoms,
Plastic nacho containers, ant-infested candy apples,
A bloody tampon, a ten dollar bill,
pieces of pompom, a sock, an ear ring.
I love these youngsters I will never meet. May they never
Drink and drive and climb the banks of futures
Of the next generation with a sunburned neck, gloves
Named TERRY, and black plastic bags shimmering
With dew and post-touchdown American filth.


Crystal meth, “pussy,” drinking, cars and engines.
On the van with the crew heading to Taco Bell
For the lunch break—the Mexicans talk of mucho
Mota—three other guys know each other—talk
About another guy in jail. I’m a professor, quiet,
For once, during drug deals as the van rides the projects.


Behind a building on a grounds we were cleaning,
I found a cooler full of assorted sodas. Stayed back there
A while—drinking a Mountain Dew, thinking
About that night. The blue lights of life acid.


I got pulled over in a parking lot—at Bubba Doo’s.
Don’t ask. I had a tail-light out. Don’t ask.
I was wearing flip-flops. Did a field sobriety test
Barefoot in late January. Passed it. Failed the rest.
Slept on the cold hard slab in the holding cell.


Weed-eating an elementary school parking lot,
I remember Amanda Brown—she gave me
Def Leppard’s Pyromania for my birthday
In fourth grade. She must’ve become a good woman.


I am using a chainsaw on Polk Salad and kudzu.
I may lose a kneecap.
I pay my debt.


Landscaping and drug deals.
County lock-ups and football fields
Illegal aliens and ex-con theologians.
My probation academy—the beer
Sweated out of me—my flesh, my juice, for the crime.
Service gave me new honor. I learned
The consequence of living like chainsaws.
I found a place in the bleachers.
I never had a place there in my life
Until the arrest, until standing there
in the middle of a game I could still win.

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