by Yvette Viets Flaten

During all the years of our marriage
we have recycled: All newspapers,
glass, cans, and compost. All leaves,
twigs, garden matter; mulched, chopped,
dug in, turned over.

How, now, after all these years,
do we imagine that mountain of print,
the deafening clatter of steel and tin
cascading down the decades? The glass
bottles that floated no missives, except
that of our silent, committed recycling?

A pile as big as El Capitan, or Gibraltar,
perhaps? An open pit mine’s worth of
metal, a glass works’ annual output?
We wonder at our mass, and the mass
of all the others, for decades.

Almost fifty years of marriage. Almost
fifty years of recycling. One professed in
a public ceremony; the other a much quieter
solitary confession, a tiny yet momentous
decision, each made in a single instant, taken
one can, one peel, one plastic bag, at a time.

PAINTING: El Capitan, Yosemite (Sentinel Rock) by Hermann Ottomar Herzog (1876).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A chance conversation on our recent anniversary brought back a flood of memories about our first apartment, in early days of recycling. My husband’s mother, a science teacher, had scouted out the first local refuse company to accept household newsprint and metal cans. We immediately followed her lead and have recycled for 47 years. Once we had a garden, my husband built two compost corrals. Recycling is a way of life for us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yvette Viets Flaten was born in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in an Air Force family, living in Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington state as well as France, England, and Spain.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish (1974) and a Master of Arts in History (1982) from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She writes both fiction and poetry and her award-winning poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including the Wisconsin Academy Review, Rag Mag, Midwest Review, Free Verse, Ariel Anthology, and Red Cedar Review. In May 2020, she was interviewed by Garrison Keillor as part of his Pandemic Poetry Contest. Yvette’s poem “Riding It Out” was one of 10 winners. Find her interview with Garrison Keillor here. More recently, Yvette had two poems accepted in anthologies honoring the 50th anniversary of the creation of Apostle Island National Lakeshore—“Trail” in A is for Apostle Islands, and “Jenga” in Island Intersections.