The LUGO Press

Littering Illustrated by Laura Steel Pascual


This piece was written for the Green Office’s Spring Poetry competition, on the theme: Environmental Guilt, which took place between the months of April-May 2022.


When I was younger

I stayed overnight

at my grandparents’

and we had brought them

a bouquet of daffodils.

They had turned up

the radiator so high,

that the flowers wilted

before the night fell,

it was twenty-six degrees in April

in an apartment while it must have been

a sunny fifteen outside.

When I was younger still

I remember winters

filled with fresh snow crunching under

your boots and I was so little still

that I sunk knee deep into the snow,

we’d sled and ski in the streets

next to my elementary school.

I remember ten days spent in Paris

with my family when I was eleven

and drinking litres of soda in the sweltering heat

with my father,

as we waited for my mother and sister

(who had gotten lost

on the way to le station de métro)

to return home with the key to the apartment.

Summers in East-Berlin

spent guessing

how high hot the heat was,

my sister was particularly good at guessing

the right amount of degrees.

Late afternoons spent at Dussmann

perusing shelves and quenching

parched throats by drinking wasser

from cylinder shaped cups

you had to hold on to

or you’d ruin the books.

You’d clutch at the cup

to keep it from falling over

and crush it, so you had to use

a new one if you got thirsty again.

Summers spent at home

filled with playing with plastic toys

in plastic inflatable kiddie pools,

which was only fun for a few days

until bugs had fallen in and died

and their little corpses were just floating around,

the grass always brown after we cleared it away.

My father uses water from the ditch

behind our house

to water the garden and wash the cars,

we shop a lot at thrift stores.

My sister stopped eating meat,

which was the greatest

surprise of the last decade,

her reasons?

Because the meat industry used so much water

and the animals were treated so poorly.

She still eats and drinks

animal produced products,

and makes up for her lack of eating meat

by taking two short showers a day

and not flushing the loo properly.

but she went to Venice this past January

with her friend.

By train, to and fro.

A few summers ago,

the thermostat in my room

reached heights I did not know

it could reach. I remember taking a picture

when it was thirty degrees in my room.

Then two summers ago

thirty no longer fazed or thrilled me,

I saw the stats climb to five-and-thirty

and one memorable evening it was thirty-seven degrees,

so warm that I didn’t sleep a wink

and sat outside all night,

swatting at mosquitoes,

who merely wanted a drink

to cool themselves down.

During that summer

we must have bought ten

bags of ice cubes

drinking over three litres of water

in the span of hours

while watching foreign films.

It’s been a few years since

we had such harsh summers,

but the memory lingers

and the dread creeps in

when we have both snow and thunder

in March and April

and you wonder, what will the weather

be like, come what may,

in May and June?

My town celebrates

Carnival abundantly,

streamers and cans litter the streets

for weeks,

with New Years the fireworks

are so loud the windows tremble,

much like the animals probably do

at our petting zoo.

In Leiden

they celebrate Leids Ontzet,

and in Alkmaar too,

eating hutspot met rookworst,

no vegetarian options,

that isn’t the Dutch thing to do,

and there is a fair

with its loud music and bright lights

seducing students to drink the day away.

Confetti decorates the gutters

and gets refurbished in birds’ nests,

it seems that more of them stay here during the winters.

When the Deen was replaced

by an Albert Heijn, they handed out

complementary cookies,

blue boxes for every paying customer

and when you left the store,

you could see the empty boxes

slung everywhere, on the playground of the school,

in the middle of the street and right next to a trashcan.

No-one could be bothered

to clean it up.

And now,

with the war in Ukraine

it would seem we finally became aware

of the strain and drain

we exert on nature

“Turn off the radiator, take short showers and take the bike!”

Solidarity with Ukraine is very important,

it is,

but why weren’t we as willing to do these things

tens of years before?

Only now, as an act of political defiance,

instead of an act of political and ecological righteousness.

I suppose throughout the years,

realizing that the penguins you see on the telly

and the sharks in the documentaries

are becoming extinct

hurts worse than finding out

a celebrity you admired has died.

Now we discovered that

micro plastics in products are affecting our bodies

and suddenly we care,

when we did not before,

and the worst part of it,

environmental awareness

is something the rich can afford

and the poor have to ignore

as they don’t have the money or the influence

to make the changes so direly needed,

even if in the end, climate change

affects all

and no-one with power

tries to use it for progress

in the right direction.

Global warming hysteria,

they call it,

back in the days “everything was better”,

well, I don’t know all that much about climate change,

but just yesterday I saw four men without shirts on

burnt to an unappetizing crisp

when it isn’t May yet and it has only been spring for a month.

And you cannot deny that something is permanently changing.

Growing up

most of us didn’t have to think about it,

never even did,

but now we have all become aware

of how soon we will ruin and turn ourselves to dust.