To My Son Who is Taking His First Environmental Class


(and comes home everyday with facts about the destruction of the planet)

I said, “don’t get all uppity”
as you chastised me for throwing away the carrot peels
and wondered why we weren’t composting anymore.

Suddenly you were asking what we have been doing with our old batteries
and when I tell you I saved them for years
then read online that they weren’t really recyclable,
you sat down heavily lamenting,
“and why is my brother, a six year old, still wearing diapers?”
Well, only to bed, Overnites, I justified
and we had a debate about which is worse-
the plastic which will outlast us both in landfills
or the water and energy required to wash his soiled sheets every night.

The real reason I no longer carefully pack a
small steel container with every egg shell and onion skin?
Because since your father and I split up,
sometimes I can barely make it out of bed, let alone peel a carrot
and the idea of tromping across the grass, through the rain
to dump the slop that had been rotting for four days
under the sink is still more than I can handle.
I justify it by thinking of my best friend who
going through a divorce, didn’t even vote for president one year.

I know you think it should be a no brainer,
to choose florescent over incandescent light bulbs-
but I have found that it takes some ease,
takes having a bit of slack in your psyche,
takes not feeling like a nuclear reactor
has just melted down in your chest,
to have the wherewithal to rinse out the peanut butter jar.
As every young righteous teenager ought to-
you are calling me to live beyond myself,
you want me to rise beyond my own tragedy.

to you, my sweet soulful son, I say yes,
lay it on, tell me, I need to hear you.
You are saying that even as I try to save my own sorry half-lived life,
I can choose recycled toilet paper.
You need me to prove with these tiny steps
that once again there will be enough-
enough love, resources, attention
for you and the things you care about,
for the things that will be here long after my drama-
your children and theirs,
the forests, fresh and salt water,
the winged and swimming creatures.