Japanese Red Leaf Maple by Leif Haven
Craigslist shows humanity at its weirdest. With Leif Haven’s chapbook he shows the bizarre goings-on of free stuff offered on Craigslist. Ranging from the perverse, why would you even give it away to the ordinary, these little snippets suggest larger stories. By giving bare minimum details the Craigslist Free Ads suggest a deeper backstory. They tease with images of how they ended up being given away for free, on the curb, in the backyard, or in large plastic bags. Due to the sheer number of these ads Haven’s work shows the inherent goodness of people. Whoever is giving these things away wants a good home for them. In fact several state for a good family or for someone in need. Craigslist free ad creators want to make the world a marginally better place in their backyard.
The plants are strange. Several plants are given away. One is ‘in the wrong place’. Another one is basic sod. Why someone would give it away is strange. Various shrubs are given away. Sidewalks are being expanded. Without a special someone the plants would wither away or simply be destroyed. Offering it to someone else is thus the best way to ensure survival of the hearty little plants. Parts of the plants appear extremely strange. Pick figs in a front yard. Anybody can go to the place and just pick them. Free leaves are given away in case there is ever a shortage of leaves. Wood chips are given away. Broken shards of glasses require a new home. Perhaps this is an extreme form of recycling. Or maybe the owners of the broken shards of glass are curious about who would want them.
Darker things are given away. Some of these things are funny (the Playboy – good condition is one example). The sadder things are the most moving. With the sad things it is reminiscent of the short six-word Hemingway story “For Sale: baby shoes never worn”. Broken infant swings offer up a slice of that sadness. ‘Working hospital bed and mattress’ fits into that category. Description is given in full: low to the ground, works great. The shocking or deeply depressing part of the ad is the ‘now we do not need it anymore’. Is this from death? Did the person’s condition improve? For what reason did they have it in the first place. Thanks to the brevity of the ad it remains unknowable. Anyone who picked up that item was probably in for the most depressing backstory ever, along with exchanging why exactly they were picking it up.
Leif Haven’s work is so simple. He picks a wide range of ads from funny to sad to simply bizarre. The description is kept as he saw it. Grammatical errors and typos are kept as he found them. Re-arranging and changing the order of the sentence (offering space) lets the reader get the full impact of each ad. These are a wonderful look into possessions as a way to live.