Filters Decay Slowly

(As Labor Day approaches, I’m reminded of the differences and of the overlap between “jobs” and “work.” As a retiree, I have more latitude in choosing what work I’ll undertake, and on what schedule. This short entry was written after a morning’s physical work, partly inspired by the Marge Piercy poem “To Be of Use.”  May you find useful work to do, whatever your current job title or employment status…)
Filters Decay Slowly

Having not a lot better to do for now,
I’ve appointed myself an intermittent
Cleaner of trash along the streets and woods
Near our condo.

There are plastic bags and soda bottles
And fast food containers,
But mainly there are cigarette filters–
Hundreds of them.

The tobacco and fillers have long since
Dissolved into lungs and air,
But the filters persist.

Heading with the trash to the dumpster
I ponder my personal filters–
Spam suppressors, media choices, do not call lists,
Old misunderstandings, wounds, slights–
A pattern of not wholly listening
To what I do not want to hear:

Attempts to keep the complexity of life
At bay that succeed only in part.
Clearing out our outmoded filters
Is so much harder than clearing the roadside,
And it’s our most basic work.

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