These three poems explore the theme of detritus – ‘waste or debris’. The term derives from the Latin deterere ‘wear away’. Drawing on this additional sense they attempt to wear away the ignorance that has led to the build-up of detritus threatening our environment and its inhabitants with a world’s ending. Each poem is based on a dream.


Hurricane Garbage

We hear it coming –

it’s like the morning when they empty the dustbins;
the rumbling of wheels in the sky,
the sky god’s garbage truck
inside out upside down
the biting mouth
that chewed the garbage is regurgitating a hurricane.

A shoal of thirteen million plastic bottles
has rattled from the deep into the sky’s crescendo.
They are playing each other like a glockenspiel.

I see wars amongst the plastic cutlery.
Plastic shopping bags are swollen demonic ghosts
with bulging foreheads branded with high street names
chased by chip papers and cellophane and cigarette packets and butts.

Mattresses and sofas are pranging their springs.
Fridges are buzzing like frizbies.

Little girls of the wind are smashing cans
and shaking lollipop sticks.

Four have their heads through the nooses
of a four pack and are singing
a strange dirge.

Hurricane Garbage is blotting out the sun
and rattling like the apocalypse.

We know we should run
but we just stand
and stare.


Sarcophagus City

I dreamt of sarcophagi.
Grey the city.

Midnight blue the cloak
of my god

who I served with prayers
tucking offerings

in plastic wrappers round stony
bodies of the dead.

Slowly I forgot my words.
Doubt unfolded

me in frail threads on a wind
that was not a wind

and did not unfold the city
as it was too still.

The wind that never was blasted
the tower block

where I made my bed. I could not
wake from the softness

of too many pillows and dream
myself home again.


Self-portrait as a rat at the world’s end

It will be the rat, he told her, that first emerges from the crud
and crap
David Harsent

After the world ended
I hung suspended, head first,
by I knew not what over a four-sided black hole.
Four ladders were guarded by four egg-headed men
with bony white fingers pointing down.

So I went, head first,
on palms or elbows or claws,
I knew not what, whatever was left of me
moving like a mist I could not see or feel


until I did not know up from down
crawling scuttling pitter-pattering on I knew not what
through a tunnel through which all the waste
of the dead world flowed:

plastics bobbing in a river of faeces and bog roll with human limbs.

As I dove in sleeker than an otter
paddling with a pink tail growing stronger and heavier,
sharp-toothed, whiskered, knowing what I was
I knew my soul was a survivor.


Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist, and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd recovering lost stories from the land and myths of forgotten gods. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and The Broken Cauldron,  and the editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist.

2 thoughts on “Detritus

  1. Reblogged this on Signposts in the Mist and commented:

    Three of my poems have been published on Gods & Radicals. ‘Hurricane Garbage’, ‘Sarcophagus City’, and ‘Self portrait as a rat at the world’s end’ explore the theme of detritus ‘waste or debris’. Each is based on a dream.


  2. Thank you Lorna for sharing this poem.

    I always like to interpret poetry as a means to convey, in code, an argument or some keen observation. I think it’s similar to comedy where one can communicate in a deeper, sharper, more meaningful way matters controversial or too vague to express in ordinary exposition. Poems for me can also be a launchpad leading to other insights and knowledge.

    So some interesting things I discovered inspired by your poem Hurricane:

    Hurricanes in dreams, according to the

    “To dream of a hurricane represents powerful conflict or destructive behavior that must be avoided to spare yourself total loss. Someone’s temper or anger that is senselessly destructive while expressing itself. It may also reflect a temper, argument, or act of revenge that you feel threatens what you’ve achieved. The potential for a very big negative change. Feeling the potential for a lot of people to get very angry at you. Feeling that potential for a major crises. Experiencing a serious relationship crises. Devastating anger or relationship conflicts.”

    In the ‘detritus’ context you mention–the human impact on the environment and resultant destruction of mankind–the hurricane represents a major crisis, an apocalypse. But, it also implies a choice: do you confront the conflict or run away from it.

    Interestingly, in Greek mythology, Poseidon–the god responsible for hurricanes–lost a battle of wits against Athena–the goddess of wisdom.

    I suppose humans have great capacity for profound ignorance/recklessness and also profound wisdom. Impliedly, we have a choice. Laziness, despondency, lost hope–sloth–…gets in the way, however.

    Christian mystics reckon “sloth” as one of the deadly sins. Sloth was defined by medieval monks (later determined to be heretical) as the lack of love. I suppose your reference to “we just stand and stare” as an observation of the lack of collective desire to put wisdom into action a plan to prevent a potential major crises. There is a lack of passion, of concern. Sloth. A quote from Stanford Lyman:

    “Sloth not only subverts the livelihood of the body, taking no care for its day-to-day provisions, but also slows down the mind, halting its attention to matters of great importance. Sloth hinders the man in his righteous undertakings and thus becomes a terrible source of human’s undoing.”

    I also discovered this quote by Edmund Burke: “No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united Cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

    The lesson I draw from your poem’s ‘spark’ in me is this: Humanity has a choice to make to prevent our inevitable destruction; Do we rest in ignorance as Poseidon reaps terror upon the world, or do we draw wisdom from Athena and make a different choice. As shown in your poem, perhaps, the first step to find ourselves in Athena’s good graces is to individually cast off our sluggishness, become ambitious citizens, and organize. It’s our choice to make;–not the choice of “evil men”–their choice has already been made. .

    BTW, check out Taino mythology regarding the goddess Guabancex who is known as the “one whose fury destroys everything.” Your use of the the ~ to separate your poems is also the symbol for this goddess. Pretty awesome if you did that intentionally!




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