PLASTIC PLAGUE

Worldwide, it's calculated that ONE TRILLION plastic bags are used and disposed of annually.

Since October 1 2011, Wales has placed a charge on the distribution of plastic bags. In the campaign running up to the imposition of the charge, Sustainable Wales carried out a huge amount of preparatory work, centred round employee Joe Newberry, who became known as ‘the bagman’.

Plastic bags are an important constituent of global plastic pollution. Countries are taking action to try to tackle this serious issue.

In May 2016, the state of New York in the USA agreed a five cents charge for every plastic bag distributed. Here, writer MARGOT FARRINGTON writes a very personal account of how she viewed just one plastic bag.

 Margot Farrington

Margot Farrington

Margot Farrington is a poet, writer, and performer. She is the author of three poetry collections, most recently "Scanning For Tigers" (Free Scholar Press).  Her poetry has appeared in The Cimarron Review, Tiferet, Academy of American Poets (online archive) and elsewhere.

Her essays, reviews, and interviews have been published in The Brooklyn Rail, Delaware County Times, ABR: American Book Review, Art International, and Poetry Wales.


 

Black Plastic Bag

Wind of March 11th brings a plastic bag to spoil the view, to fasten insult to the big cherry at the back of the garden.  Tony makes the discovery and comes to tell me.  We go to the window and stare out.  Grimly, I remark that it’s the durable kind, not that flimsy, ghostly plastic wind pulls to pieces over time.

We see how high it’s snagged, three quarters of the way up.  The cherry’s height exceeds the two story building just behind: no ladder we own can bring us close enough for removal. Perhaps with a pole, I think, with some sort of hook on the end.  In more than three decades here, I can’t recall this happening, because our garden shelters within a long rectangle of neighboring yards, enclosed all round by the buildings of our block. 

Meanwhile, bags appear on the streets everywhere. Just three weeks ago, one plaguing a plane tree had torn to remnants and let go.  We’d watched that bag from our front windows for part of the winter, now the coming of spring was blighted with this black flag.  It waved, piratical and impenitent, frightening the cardinal that frequently perches near the top of the tree. Each spring he chooses the cherry to sing his clear-welling song, announcing to all his intention to mate and to nest and to raise fledglings.

I sulk at the sight of this intruder, I who am bag conscious, taking with me when I shop a canvas bag wherever I go.  Almost fanatic, nursing my hatred of the plastic ones dominating the city.  Stomping upon skittering sidewalk bags to arrest them, stuffing them into the trash. Tearing those within reach from street trees. Plucking them from plantings in the park.  I can’t do this everywhere I go, but mentally I chase, pinion, and correct.  And now, in disgust and at a loss, I turn away from the window.

The next day, I study the bag again, and the slender branch it’s slung over.  March has entered in reverse, that is to say, lamb-like: no buffeting winds and little of the raw chill typical of the month.  Instead, balmy days and the temperature easing up past 60, have brought spring on early.  I can see the blue-green leaves of the pearl bushes pushing out, hungry sparrows beginning to dismantle the pussy willow catkins.

Someone would have to climb part way up the tree, be agile enough with a long pole to dislodge or rip the bag from the branch.  I am not that person, nor is Tony, though once we could’ve done the trick.  I don’t want to see that bag as the cherry leafs out, don’t want to watch the birds shy from the flap-monster come to roost.

The following day the bag has wrapped itself into a black chrysalis, and maintains this form the entire day.  Someone will have to climb the tree.  I try to think of someone.  Or might the wind suddenly undo what it has done?

March 14th.  I try not to obsess, can’t help imagining that ugliness among the blossoms early May will bring on.  This cherry I call The Black Dragon (for a limb suggestive of a dragon climbing skyward) is of the species Prunus serotina. Planted by a bird, preserved by us when we took down the mulberry tree that overshadowed it.  Cherry all the birds enjoy, owing to the vantage point the tree commands, and of course for the fruit itself.  Why must our Black Dragon wear a black plastic bag?

March 15th, I’m sitting down to lunch at our dining room table, and I’ve looked out the window, as I have several times earlier, met each time by the presence of the bag hanging in space.  It has abandoned chrysalis form, regained shopping mode.  The garden lies wetly dark from rain earlier on.  At the end of lunch, I glance idly out, not with intent to check.  Something is missing—I scan the tree, convinced I’ve overlooked it somehow, but no, it’s really gone. 

Tony joins me and we look together, gazing from our third floor window, thinking we’ll spy the wretch caught in some other tree or bush, still asserting itself, still hateful.  But oh, how lovely, no trace.  No trace at all.  How foolish—I should have had more faith in the wind of March.  An errant puff: breath of the lamb at the perfect moment.  A black sail headed off to wherever.  Happiness restored.