What Do You Do in the Home Depot Parking Lot?

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For an hour a week, you throw out questions to the men waiting for work: What is your favorite day? Color? Month? Hobby? Food? You interrogate these guys until they are truly exhausted by your incessant noise, until they hardly even recognize their own vocabulary, their own sweet sounds.

You know they are strong—and proud, and they would keep swimming in this word ocean, would deny saturation, ignore that you’ve ventured in too deep.

Their eyes insist their determination to swim the length of your language, so you pretend exhaustion, drag each other to the yellow beach.

Last week, a security guard insisted Jesus could not deliver food to the parking lot hungry, could not feed folks from his mini-van buffet, said he was just doing his job. Initially, Jesus was indignant, said he’d organize a strike against the company, said he’d organize folks to march for fairness, for the poor. The poor guard suggested he do what he needed to do, offered that it wouldn’t make a difference to Home Depot, suggested he learn the name of the manager.

Jesus looked at me and asked, what are the odds S—speaks Spanish. I knew they were slim and that I was being enlisted to join a quest.

This chilly Tuesday afternoon, we entered the Home Depot and met a mix of discount Halloween and unabashedly Christmas décor, looked for S—, the manager, and waited patiently as the staff indiscreetly tried to ravel the story of why Jesus and I were requesting S—‘s presence.

Jesus made his case in Spanish, I translated it, with the same gusto he conveyed: how it brings him sadness to see hungry people, how he, a cancer survivor, cannot tolerate suffering, how too many people are exhausted—and poor. S— seemed surprised by our presentation, said he would speak with the guard, that we could be back to the work of generosity and good will as long as Jesus was not collecting cash, competing with the Home Depot’s own café.

We watched S—head out to inform the man in gray, and Jesus commented, “We are a good team.”

Just as jubilant I considered what we do in the Home Depot parking lot, how Jesus and I scaled a tree (see 21 below) and battled death together, he gave me a sly high five as we strode back into the parking lot.


From What I Know

By Patrick Dubost

Translated by Fiona Sampson

  1. I know that language is within the world and that, at the same time, the world is within language. I know we are at the border between language and the world.

Please read the whole gorgeous poem at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/52402/what-i-know-56d230d805aef

  1. I know that, seen from the border between language and the world, the universe is in increasing entropy. But I no longer know what it is if I climb to the top of a tree (one of these trees on the border between language and the world), from where you can see far into language and far into the world at the same time.
  2. Because I have scaled a tree, I know that beyond language is a huge plain, with dark flowers and little mazy footpaths.


* What do you know? Make us a list of at least 21 startling discoveries.

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