Unheard Promises_Jillian LaRussa.jpg

Garbage Boogie

Stephanie Niu

Is it bad that in the crash

of trash down the chute I hear

music? The sound of hollow boxes

and old bottles of booze

lulls me, confused, into its groove:

I have trash guilt. I’m culpable. Though 

I compost, I sort my

recyclables. I know the truth,

that no amount of used glass

can amount to real absolution.

A friend suggests we throw it

into space as the solution. My date’s dad

is a psycho recycler, I remember

as I pass a strangely fragrant can. 

He sorts everything, the chopsticks

and their wrapper separately bagged.

We can’t all be like him. The system

can’t need us to be superman.

Of course I toss my takeout containers

without rinsing the grease first. 

What am I if not a busy glutton

for convenience? Waste is as easy

as moldy tomatoes tossed in the bin.

Discarding what I can’t carry.

Cheap furniture. Responsibility. 

The ambitious bag of bacteria

to make kombucha I never brewed,

still fizzing miraculously.

I empty myself gladly.

Trash knows. 

It barrels into a bulge, shows off 

the ways we still overflow

with hunger, so much hunger

with nowhere to go.

STEPHANIE NIU is a poet from Marietta, Georgia who earned her degrees in symbolic systems and computer science from Stanford University. Her poems have appeared in The Southeast Review, Poets Reading the News, Storm Cellar, and Portland Review. She works as a product manager in New York City.

Header art: "Unheard Promises" by Jillian LaRussa.