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.