I can brood on things, such as why it’s always the poor
who fashion slapdash signs saying Free, then stack
their detritus outdoors.

Who’d want it? I wonder, as I pass a certain house.
I know the people who live in there. Hell no –
I don’t know them, not in the least.

There’s some mystery in everyone, of course,
but souls like these seem somehow even more
inscrutable and dense

than their dismal dwellings. We make our grim surmises
about their behavior, mutter terse greetings, perhaps,
at the store, where they empty their pockets

to buy up futile tickets – Megabucks,
Powerball, whatever – Slim Jims and beer.
What do I bring to all this?

Is it sorrow, contempt, compassion? All these, to be sure,
and more, no doubt. As I drive by this backcountry place,
in whose mud-and-gravel yard

slumps a couch the color of mixed-breed brindle mutts,
graceless scribbles bleed on a cardboard placard
in rain, but I see that, yes,

it’s Free, this hunk of fabric and particle board,
which even the dispossessed elect to reject.
Drenched by ruthless downpour,

the couch sparks my customary inclination
to monger metaphor. But I keep myself
from making the thing an emblem

of perfect despair, because, whatever disorder
of spirit that sofa stands for, whatever kind
of psychological clutter –

is it really theirs, not mine?