By Rebecca A. Demarest in Issue Eleven, October 2023

The plasticsmith waits for the children to return
with buckets full of scraps, bags, bottles, and toys
meticulously scrapped and washed and clean.
The buckets are weighed, then into the crucible they go,
rendered down to grayish brown ingots, made ready
for shipment from the Patch to the factories in the City.

The children spend their gleaning time dreaming of the City,
and the parents and brothers and sisters who might return
after adventuring away for fortune and glory, getting ready
to bring their families to them, with plenty of food and new toys.
There are stories and songs to keep spirits high, how they will go
to a place where everything is bright and dry and clean.

You’d think things floating in the ocean would be clean,
considering the amount of water, but it’s not like the City
where the rain washes the pavement and automatic street sweepers go
up and down the sidewalks, scrubbing dirt from every corner, to return
the next night and do it all again. The cleaners, like toys
running on tracks, poised and hungry, always ready,

but constrained by the programming the City deems orderly and ready
to tackle filth we drop. There were trash cans to keep sidewalks clean,
but people are too busy, eager to get to the new toys,
throwing gray-brown packaging aside. They crow to the City
on social media about their purchases, then return
their gadgets to buy the next, round and round and nowhere to go

but to the Patch. The drifts and flotsam of trash will go
floating out to sea, creating new islands, new worlds, ready
for life to migrate and begin their harvest, to return
the plastics newly molded, fresh and clean
to the City, from the Patch, to the City,
a whole ecosystem spawned by offcast toys.

Tiny, sunburnt hands pick at the wheels of broken toys
and halfheartedly push a dismembered truck before letting it go
to his bucket, barnacles covering its side like a city
grown organic and efficient, naturally made ready

to filter the waters they float through, making clean
the sea before being plucked, scrapped, not to return,

to their purpose, but sacrificed for the City, cut adrift from the toys.
Before long the gray-brown plastics return, and into the crucible they go,
to feed the waiting appetites, ready and waiting for the bright, the new, the clean.

© 2023 Rebecca A. Demarest

Rebecca A. Demarest

Rebecca A. Demarest is an award-winning author, playwright, book designer, and writing instructor living in Seattle, WA with her husband and two muppets. Her short work has appeared alongside authors like Cat Rambo and dramatized for the stage and NPR. When not being held hostage by words, you can find her at her day job (working the people side of unbelievably awesome tech) tending to her indoor jungle (now with real frogs and lizards!), crafting, sewing, running Dungeons and Dragons as a professional Dungeon Master, and failing to teach her dogs new tricks. For more information on her work, please visit rebeccademarest.com.

Poetry by Rebecca A. Demarest
  • Sestainability