Poetry for a Leaf Blower Nation


Guest Rants in Verse by Jennifer Martenson


For Whom the Leaf Blower Blows

Consumer grade cost cutters

available in mildly indifferent and turbo screw all y’all models*

shift the burden of debris

faster than you can say externality

*inline deregulators sold separately


Prélude à l’après-midi d’un leaf blower

Gunning at dawn

as if to secure

the right to water

the lawn, to leave

the engine on, to burn

what we please

and pile the debris

on someone else’s

doorstep, to adjust

one’s mask before

asphyxiating others,

a two-stroke civic

discourse at full

throttle keeps

the peace and

quiet clean.


The Aggressive Ways of the Casual Leaf Blower

“Clean up,” they say, filling the air

with dirt and exhaust. As if

you can more quickly rake in cash

by blowing it into the street.

With all the force — and foresight —

of a tornado. Such logic

flies in everyone’s face, yet passes

for rational self-interest. How

so many ignore it, I don’t know.

It screams out to be heard

from blocks away, even with

the windows closed. And the stereo on.


Out of Proportion, Endlessly Blowing

Given that it takes four

hundred cubic feet per

minute of hot

air blowing at

two hundred miles per

hour to displace the

weight of one

grass clipping

pressed to wet

cement and one

cubic yard of

chipped bark

(color enhanced)

to replace

what is blown

out from under

one square yew

(freshly shaved) by

what percentage does

the value of

hearing oneself

think decline in

the presence of

one leaf scritching

in the street

and how many wind

turbines will it take

to keep America’s

sidewalks clean

on a rainy day

in hurricane season?

Jennifer Martenson is the author of a book of poems called Unsound (Burning Deck Press, 2010). She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she works as a library associate and is learning to garden after many years of garden-less apartment living.


  1. Thank you for lyricizing one of my biggest pet peeves! We use these leaf blowers so we can “save time” which we then spend sitting watching tv – or even worse, in my opinion, exercising at the gym (using even more nonrenewable resources to power the machines). What a horrible waste. Grown men and women standing around waving smelly, noisy wands just so we don’t have to sully our hands with a broom or rake.

  2. I hate leaf blowers with a passion. However, when I worked for a small garden design-landscape maintenance company, my boss demanded that I use a leaf blower. She said it was a matter of saving time, and therefore money.

    I don’t know if she was right. Personally, I think I’m more competent with a rake than with a blower and therefore get clean-up done faster.

    • It is sad that they have become so standard and are perceived as necessary. I bet you had customers who would have appreciated the manual approach.

      A group in Los Angeles tested the time savings argument in the late 90s; you’ll find it if you look for “Grandmother Proves Rake and Broom as Fast as Leaf Blowers” 🙂

    • Sorry to hear someone turned down your book just for this! Here, they have come to be used as all-purpose brooms, and, indeed, I often see them being advertised as “sweepers” – not just for leaves! Some towns have laws limiting their use to spring and fall months, but here, I can count of hours of them most days from April through December. I do feel for those in climates without the winter break.

  3. Jennifer, you are a genius, and you have said so eloquently everything that I feel and think when I am assaulted by the sound and stink of these infernal noisemakers.

  4. In the UK we should develop a similar device for sucking up slugs and firing them back into Spain! We are expecting an outbreak of Spanish Slugs that have breached our borders from Europe. Count yourselves very lucky that in the states you have great border control… Watch those supermarket salad imports – you never know who’s catching a ride!

  5. Not to worry
    It will be here soon
    Offended ears rejoice
    The total corporate takeover
    The middle class is screwed

    Plenty jobs with rakes and brooms
    The demand for such will boom
    All will serve the wealthy lords
    Who buy up all your suburbia

    Practice now
    Teach your kids
    Grab that rake or broom
    In pleasant silence you will clean
    All that once was yours

    There is one thing I know for sure
    The well to do like things clean
    And gain a certain pleasure
    By having others do

    The peasant life is quiet
    There will be no need for speed or power
    Put on your babushka
    Now hush

    That mile of road to sweep
    Is for you

  6. Ms. Martenson: Will you be my neighbor?

    Christopher in NC: I’m missing something. Are you saying a heavy, awkward, noisy leafblower (for which almost no lawn-company in my area seems to require eye or hearing protection!) is less physically demanding than a rake/broom? Or less demeaning? I’ll never be able to afford a lawn-care company, but I do like to sweep the leaves off my sidewalks; they can be a slippery safety hazard when rained on.

    • Sandy do you think spending eight to ten hours a day raking or pushing a broom would be physically taxing? Would you look down on the person doing that job? Your answers do not matter. You thought about it and questioned it. That’s good enough.

      • Oh c’mon Christopher, let’s just photoshop the guy out of picture and pretend he doesn’t exist. That lady who uses the vacuum cleaner to sweep my office building needs to switch to a broom. And don’t get me started on the street sweepers that drive down the block at all hours of the afternoon!

      • Sweeping/raking for 8-10 hours at a stretch? Very taxing. But I truly believe that I, personally, would be far worse taxed by the leaf-blower. (Yes, I’ve used both, even if for shorter periods. I don’t speak in total ignorance.)
        I hope I never look down on anyone doing manual labor . . . why should I?

  7. I’m not sure if I dislike leaf-blowing idiots or early spring burners more. The first fine days of spring, when you’re so very happy to be outdoors, and here comes the smoke. Seems like there is always plastic hidden in their burn pile, too. Enough grousing!

  8. I’ve been in the lawn business for over 10 years, and I’m always surprise by how irritated people get regarding leaf blowers. That being said, I do try and use one in the least annoying way as possible.


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