Gunnar Bernritter

by Cecil Miller (1906-1998) (1)

The teeniest modicum of self-respect,
You tell me, would be enough to keep me
From spending my days collecting junk.
But itís not easy to watch good cook-stoves
End their days in a cow-shed
Behind the village hoosegow
Nor to see the waste of things when someone dies:
The shoes that want nothing but wearers
When their owners expire,
The half-used candles, the beautiful hats,
The plows and rakes and planters left driverless
Because calamity has struck our neighborhood.
Thereís lots of good iron in this junkyard of mine,
Dozens of old machines only waiting to be put to use.
Itís not easy to watch people wasting the little cash they have,
Paying nine-tenths of it just for newness
When this regular cornucopia of slightly used things is
Lying here idle, needing only to be picked up.

Self-respect you say? I answer,
What about respect for things?
What about respect for the labor and thought
That have gone into the making of
The goods in this junkyard?
Iím a servant, I know, and the needs I serve
Are lowly. I know that, too.
Come the judgement day, my friend, weíll see
Which kind of respect the good lord deems most worthy --
Yours or mine.


(1) unpublished ms, ĎHell Creek Country,í c. 1986

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