Sep 6, 2021 • 6M

The diaper at Vernooy Kill

A poem about eco-perfectionism and self-compassion

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The diaper at Vernooy Kill

Vernooy Kill

Discovered by serendipity

Beckons, calls

To something 

Deep and old


The big rock

Sculpted over centuries

By the bubbling swirl

Into a natural jacuzzi

Vernooy Kill

Is a place

To ponder time

How short-lived we are

Compared to

These smooth

And sculpted rocks?

At Vernooy Kill

With the rushing water

In our ears

We say hello

To a dragonfly

To the green of leaves

The Green

That we normally 

Don't take in

Like this

In all its glow

And we say hello

To a diaper

The diaper

Is laying there

On a rock

Near the water

"Everything is fucked" 

We say

When we see it

We laugh

A laugh of sadness

The diaper

So egregious

It connects

To so many fucked things

In this world

Collective guilt

Is as good a name

As any

For what we feel

The artisanal body scrub

I bought for my grandma

At a New Age store

Has now congealed

Into the stickiest mess

It's like rubbing your body

With rubber cement

What will I do with the mason jar

Housing this soap-turned-glue?

Throw it away

Or spend time

Scrubbing it?

The tea I am drinking

Scrumptious, toasty

Came in a plastic bag

For a time I believed

You could recycle these

But John Oliver

Disabused me 

Of that notion

Collective guilt

Told me to start

A worm compost bin

Now, fruit flies

Have taken roost

An inevitability

But still,

Annoying as hell

I didn't rescue

The watermelon rinds

From the trash today

I had other things

I wanted to do:



Write this poem

I ponder going to Hawaii

So much


It's hard 

To walk around the world

With moral alarm bells

On a hairpin trigger

I think about systems

What would systems look like

That would allow us to follow

Our human nature

That likes to roam

But also make the world

More beautiful

Rather than less


That allow everyone

To live light 

On the earth

When is it 

Life within limits?

And when is it



It strikes me,

Is a lot easier

When you have infinite time

And when others, parents

Take care

Of your body's needs

Idealism is a lot easier

And when you don't know as much

When you haven't watched Jon Oliver

Idealism, at its heart

Is thinking 

That you are

Less bound

By limits 

Of time and energy

Than you really are


And perfectionism

Are cousins

When energy and time

Are limited

I can't hide

From my complicity

I realize the truth:

In life,

All I can do

Is my imperfect best

I have to decide

What I want to do

No optimums

Only value hierarchies

And choices

We can only clean up

So many pieces of trash

From the street

Or the park

Or Vernooy Kill

Cleaning up diapers

Takes away energy

From other pursuits

Such as working to end

Solitary confinement

Or relaxing

My mom told me about a company

Working out

How to make diapers

From mushrooms

Elon Musk worked out

How to make electric cars

And I hear they are better

But I also hear

About lithium mines

I haven't heard anything bad

About mushroom diapers


It seems 

That the dark side

Will always be with us

In some form

Out, out, damned spot!

But the spot is sticky

Everything will always be

A little bit fucked

It seems to me

Is a diaper

In a landfill

Better than one

In Vernooy Kill?

Is a mushroom diaper

Better than a plastic one?

We left the diaper

On that rock

At Vernooy Kill

It's both sad 

And liberating

To realize

My smallness

My earthly wants

And needs

It was sad to realize that

Not only can I not

Save the world

But on that day

It was too much 

For me

To pick up that diaper

I'm still working on forgiving 


For that supposed crime

I'm still working on seeing

That leaving the diaper at Vernooy Kill

Was a form 

Of kindness