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
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,
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
streamers and cans litter the streets
with New Years the fireworks
are so loud the windows tremble,
much like the animals probably do
at our petting zoo.
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
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.
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,
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,
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
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.
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.