At The Big Sweep
by Paul Jones

No one likes to wade
knee deep in the creek
to pull out plastic
snags from the places
turtles seek the sun.
I pretend I do
to do the hard work
that needs to be done.
I take what I have
of magic, of what
I found of pleasure,
in cleaning the creek.
I remember why
I hate what mud can
do to weigh plastic,
to make the load twist
and shudder and shift.
My feet find new paths
in the sucking mud,
some purchases on stone,
that lead to the bank.
My slow slogs resets
stream’s rushing free flow.
I remember nights
I couldn’t fall asleep
on a mountain train
how it like the creek
would twist, turn, and shift
along the river.
I got off the train
and it moved again.
More smoothly or so,
it seemed as distance
grew and the river
ran in parallel.
I knew then, as here,
that joy comes when work
and journeys are done.

PAINTING: Scene from the Train Window by Martiros Sarian (1960).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Big Sweep is a continuing volunteer effort to free the waterways and other natural areas of litter — especially plastic. Some may find these efforts a pleasure, but for me these necessary tasks are more rewarding in retrospect when you can see the results from a distance in time and space. Writing is, of course, similar as are taxing trips on rattling trains.

Paul at turkish house (1)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Jones has published poems in Poetry, Red Fez, Broadkill Review, 2River View, Silver Birch Press’ “I am waiting series,” and anthologies including Best American Erotic Poems. His chapbook is What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common. His book Something Wonderful came from Redhawk Publishing in November 2021. A manuscript of his poems crashed on the moon in 2019. He was inducted into the North Carolina State Computer Science Hall of Fame in November 2021.