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Three Days Honest Work / JD Clapp

I spent about 10 minutes last week chatting with a guy I see collecting cans in front on my grocery store now and again. I asked him a little about his life. His name is Juan, but he told me people call him Can Man. Here's a poem I jotted instead of notes. Thanks Can Man.


Three Days Honest Work

Can Man got a bike and some trash bags, he

Bought ’em with the money he got

Off his Sis’ when he promised to get off

Her couch and find work since he got clean and

His head ain’t fucked no more.


Can Man rides that no brake, $15 dollar

Purple girl’s bike with the fucked derailer

To three 7-11s, two rec centers, and 5 strip

Malls, covering 49 miles a day, and digs

Through trash bins with his hands and a stick.


Can Man hides his full bags in the canyon where

He lives, next to the wagon he boosted that holds his

Clothes, and a pot, and a spoon, two lighters,

Blankets, and a tarp, until he has 50 pounds--about

Five bags full bags of crushed sticky ant-covered cans.


Can Man takes them bags and ties ‘em to his

Bike then rides that purple girl’s bike with

No breaks 10 miles over to AAA Recycling Center

Down on 2nd street and cashes ‘em for twenty-five bucks,

And the use of the shitter and some powdered soap to wash his hair.


Can Man, money in his pocket, rides to a Mexican market to

Buy beans, tortillas, rice, salt, a jalapeño, limes, two apples,

And a single quart of beer to get him through the

Next three days, about how long it takes for another 50 pounds,

Before he returns to his home canyon to celebrate pay day.


JD CLAPP writes in San Diego, CA. His work has appeared in The Milk House, Rural Fiction Magazine, Wrong Turn Literary, Revolution John, The Whisky Blot, among several others. He has forthcoming work in A Common Well Journal, Fleas on the Dog, and Literally Stories. His story "One Last Drop" was a finalist in the 2023 Hemingway Shorts Literary Journal, Short Story Competition.


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