Considering My Last Carbon Footprint by Patricia Hemminger

 Patricia Hemminger is the 2nd place winner of Streetlight’s 2023 Poetry Contest

Photo of copse of trees with light shining through
Photo by Fred Wilbur.
Considering My Last Carbon Footprint

New York Governor Legalizes Human Composting,
The Guardian, January 23, 2023

I’ve been composting for years. It’s very satisfying,
potato peels, broccoli stalks, tumbled with dried leaves
decompose, enrich the garden soil each spring.

I wonder whether to make a will that requests
my family do the same with me cocoon my body
in wood chips and straw for a month or more. It’s legal

now and carbon neutral when sun powers the rotation.
They could plant a tree or rose bush in the garden,
dig the root clump into compost I transformed into.

Embalming fluid pollutes rivers and streams
near cemeteries and metals used in fancy caskets leach
into soil, so a landfill burial doesn’t appeal.

Cremation emits a lot of carbon dioxide, vaporized
mercury from dental amalgams. Titanium, though, in those
hip replacements we’re all having is extracted and recycled.

.A green burial seems the best, environmentally, wrapped
in a cotton shroud, no embalming fluids in sight, lowered
six feet into the ground, to be discovered in a few thousand years

like the Iron Age queens unearthed in square barrows
near my hometown, bones crouched around
bronze brooches, blue glass beads, chariot wheels.

Patricia Hemminger
Patricia Hemminger’s experience of growing up in rural UK along with her science background and love of nature informs and inspires her poetry. Spillway, Streetlight Magazine, The Write Launch, Peregrine Journal. and First Literary Review East, among others have kindly published some of her poetry. She holds a PhD in chemistry and is a graduate of NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and of Drew University’s MFA Poetry Program. Her chapbook What Do We Know of Time? was published by Finishing Line Press in October 2022.

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