the empties

I got a case of the empties
and no I don't mean a box
of two dozen bottles
smelling of stale beer
waiting to be returned
to be filled with fresh beer
or shattered and melted
forged into shiny new bottles
maybe crafted to carry
something different
I mean the single empty bottle
forgotten in the basement
or under the patio
or by the creek behind your house
I mean the case of twenty-three
waiting by the door
until it's full enough to move on
I mean the case of eleven also
waiting because it was scavenged
to add up to twenty-four
I mean the case of five
twenty-three again 
case after case after case
dangerously rattling for a gap
that keeps opening up 
until you finally go digging
in the basement
under the patio
by the creek
but all you find are the bottles
in old photos of your
dead grandparents and
the friends you never see
and you can't recycle a memory
so you keep searching through
the places you used to 
drink together
laugh together
be together
and nothing ever gets filled
or broken down into anything 
that can carry something new
I got a case of the empties
a glass-sharp rattle 
begging to move on
while I wait inside the door
in case that single bottle
decides to show up


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