If I Were Woke, I’d be Naked and Starving
by Leah Mueller

My cast-off cans
and bottles rest

in corners of my kitchen
and bathroom, encased
in sturdy plastic bins.

Are the bins themselves
recyclable? I pretend
it doesn’t matter,

since I will always own
those bins. I pretend
to understand how my
waste will be transformed

from empty garbanzo cans
into glittering icons
of 21st century
eco-chic architecture,

and won’t be shipped
across oceans in barges:
belching exhaust
and discharging sewage

as they make their way
to distant countries, who
no longer want our garbage.

I create a trail of refuse,
just by existing. If I
move my weight around,
I use more resources.

Better to sit
absolutely still,
naked, but that
would get me arrested.

Guess I’ll pretend
I’m saving the
goddamned planet
by bringing my bills
and grocery receipts
and wine bottles to
the local recycling plant,

everything safely tucked
in the back of my
six-year-old Camry.

After I destroy
all evidence of my
shameful need to consume,

I’ll drive away
in a cloud of exhaust,
and pretend I never owned

PAINTING: Evian Bottles by Janet Fish (1976).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem out of frustration, but of course it came out funny. Today, as I visited the local recycling plant, I lamented the amount of resources we consume while trying to use fewer. I have been told that our community’s reusable waste is shipped to Tucson, but no one really knows what happens to it there. I don’t like the idea of my cast-off debris moldering in a landfill somewhere, so I continue to recycle.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona.  She is the author of nine prose and poetry books, published by numerous small presses. Her latest chapbook, Land of Eternal Thirst (Dumpster Fire Press) was released in 2021.  Leah’s work appears in Rattle, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and elsewhere. Visit her at leahmueller.org.