Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Plastic Free July by Connor Weightman

bass strait roaring. or i imagine them calling, a pod of tankers
well wishing me home from the shops. sliding between
twelve thousand years like cigarettes flattened amongst
parked umbrages. this problem is so ubiquitous, so
boring. the sun is out for once. in brunswick
brushtails traverse electric wires. all this oil, so little
time left to spill, walking home carrying say eight mush
rooms snug in a medium-strength plastic container, lipid
layered in cling wrap, next to a cold whole pizza vacuum
sealed in a thicker soft clear winter coat. condensation
of the mental calculation of these options versus onward
to the next shop where maybe fresh fungi is sold loose
or not, before or after the thought of petroleum parentheses
how we got here in the first place, flipping a coin
winking: consumer it's up to you! and i wonder
this july, if you're doing it again but without me, now.
am i the one letting go of my principles or were they
never mine to begin with. was i just being you for
a while? trying to meet somewhere in the middle until
i woke leaning into nothing. i keep finding myself
dull in the middle distance, trying to annotate old
rejected poems, dredging what i thought of you
out of undegradable garbage, trying to break it all
down into component parts. for example there was
one about blood tests. neat quintet partitions, reverse
paralel answers all the way down the road. all the paths
are cylinders, they always end in flowers, or so i thought
at the time was a suitable way to communicate post
cancer uncertainty and anxiety. cancer of course
being an excellent ready shrink-packaged personal
pushing outward to political analogy for the fossil fuel
industry, banal, monumental, though these words too
require the addition of water, need to be expanded
beyond initial glazing over of comprehension, like, oh
yes, hydrocarbons, embedded uncomfortably
in collective skin. and at a tourist bar the other
night with steph laughing about blood taking
and the gritty discomfort that we shared, gesturing
above a glass of house red this extremely visceral
image: holding a squeeze ball and being instructed
to contract forearm muscles in order to speed up
the rate of collection. at this point she'd had enough,
she said, and i related. all the needles through chemo,
the blood tests for five years after and it never did
become easier to imagine away the upper most crust.
still, patients of all kinds, particularly cancer patients
need the blood of others. cancer, at least, is a fun word
to spring on new lovers. i wonder how you are, though

even if less frequently than i thought i would. we're still
speaking and it's different, like a familiar but dead
language, will probably need several generations
of academic discourse to unravel. it seems unlikely
anyone living truly knows the correct interpretation.
i file it down for friends, until my own understanding
of the whole scenario is irreparably condensed; wonder
what you're doing about the recycling crisis, now
that you're a professional cog, someone who made it,
who at the end of our relationship said, well, to be
pragmatic, is it even worth it? recycling plastic?
you were right. everything changed. keeping secrets
alive in the ecosystem. i went on a date with a human
who drives to get whole foods, as we did in our past
life together, makes porridge for breakfast too, though
this is neither closure nor points on a cycle that is bigger
than us or oxytocin. just a few months back, right near
the end, when we were riding home from civic, along
the cold lake, still air muffling our ears, we stopped to say hi
to a possum peering from a forked trunk in the dark.
(i dimly loved that you could live here for so long,
this stolen continent with cities full of possums
and be excited about this). maybe one of us told the other
not to shine a bike light in its eyes.


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