Odd Jobs by Don Van Vliet

The rug ripped up in cloth popcorn balls
the walls an old candy striped sack
in the corner wrinkled black and white
a table held up by legs
the peeled back red enamelled mouth of linoleum screamed
at the pasteboard door
a knob rolled off in some corner sticky
a curtain blew into a sink
dead flies and newspapers
charred fire brown wings and toast
Hobo ain’t been around for some time
the gate danced without its paint on
Odd jobs is written on
spiders were the window’s eyes
the sun made them look silver
the little girl from in back of the clothesline
cast a shadow like a crow
it’s beak spoke open
why doesn’t old Odd Jobs come around anymore
he used to ride his form-a-heap bike
and his basket was a whole candy store
he used t’make Xs from door to door
all the women and the young girls around here
ask why old Jobs don’t come on home
and the gate without its paint on danced
and creaked and moaned
here he comes peddlin’ up on his form-a-heap bike
a bag of skin and bones
spokes were scraping two rust fenders


  1. What is the meaning of ‘he used t’make Xs from door to door’?

    1. My mother once invited a hobo who showed up on our front porch into the kitchen for lunch. I remember him eating a sandwich. After he left, my mother went out to the front of the house to see whether or not he had left a mark by the numerals of our street address. I took it that any such mark would mean, “Good for a handout.”

    2. He would cross the street and backtrack and cross again.

  2. Anybody know what a “form-a-heap bike” is?

    1. Is it where a bunch of guys balance in a heap on one bike? I can picture a “caruponrims” is though.

  3. I want to say heap was an African American mag or paper. I want to say it was referenced in Black Boy. Or it falls apart forming a heap of junk.

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