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The Landfill Conference
At the landfill conference I learn
to recycle metal, paper, glass
for profit. Debates on plastics
trigger quarrels that often end
with fist fights in the parking lot.
Organic polymers confuse
dump attendants who prefer
bundled newspaper, broken-
down cardboard boxes, and glass
smashed in giant dumpsters.
Sorting aluminum and steel cans
tests their intellectual ardor
for their job. Polyethylene,
polyvinyl chloride, poly-
their patience and tempt them to strike
innocent family members
after a couple of beers at home.
Lacking organic chemistry,
I can't follow the discussions
about breaking down polymers
with starch, bacteria, sunlight,
so I leave the room to get some air.
But outside the conference hall
black smoke fills the streets. A fire
in a transformer sickens the view.
Police and fire crews herd people
indoors to escape the foul odor.
Back in the conference hall power
is out, the crowd has dispersed.
I recycle myself to my room
by climbing twelve flights of stairs.
I haven't learned to distinguish
thermoplastics from thermosetting
polymers, and what about
bioplastics and acrylics?
The black smoke curls at my window
but can't get in. Dozing off,
I murmur Bakelite, parkesine,
nylon; and with a shift
of mood I dream I'm wearing
my favorite sea-blue Orlon sweater,
indifferent to its synthetic feel
yet braced by its chemical color.
POETRYREPAIRS 13.12: 138