Trash Pick-Up Haibun by Michael G. Smith

During long minutes at home in the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic and being a materials chemist with few real-world skills, I found myself wondering what I could do to help others while minimizing contact. I recalled walking past a wetland behind a chain of stores and seeing its reeds and willows full of trash. Home to ducks, pheasants, Redwing blackbirds and others, the wetland is the sort of landscape migrating Sandhill cranes will stop to rest and feed.

in the brown reeds
a tattered Bible
opened to Genesis

Materials – plastic, chemically-treated wood products, styrofoam – decompose slowly, if at all, within a human lifetime. The decomposition products pollute lands and waters. Overtime an increasing concentration of harmful chemicals threaten all – people, waterfowl and countless unseen beings. A Zen Buddhist, my definition of others including all non-human species, I chose to help the wetland and created a self-volunteer project spending a few hours each week ridding the reeds and willows of human garbage.

told to stay home
I take refuge
beneath evergreens

Behind the Home Depot store bordering a pond I anticipate much of the debris will be that from the construction retailer. And I do find some – pieces of two-by-fours, foam packing, plastic sheets and straps, crumbling sheetrock. But there is also consumer debris – potato chip bags, beer and soda cans, a picture of a young couple in a broken frame, take-out coffee cups and lids, deflated bubble wrap. Surprises too – a $5 bill and picture puzzle pieces.

Sun Face Buddha
Moon Face Buddha
what merit in picking up trash?

My not-knowing if the wetland birds appreciate my efforts does not matter. Instead, as I place each piece in a large plastic bag I think of the many connections between the Covid-19 pandemic and an overpopulated human species whose resource consumption and pollution exceeds the carrying capacity of the Earth. I also think about the uncountable acts of charity and unselfishness happening globally during the pandemic. Humanity’s growing recognition it has very little time to change its behaviors to save itself and all other beings matters now more than we can imagine.

budding willows –
nests of last years’ grasses
take shape

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

5 thoughts on “Trash Pick-Up Haibun by Michael G. Smith

  1. Such an uplifting piece from Michael Smith. And so beautifully composed. He found words of beauty amidst the debris. Thanks, Miriam, for sharing. 🤗🌈

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