In With The Environment

by Barbara Lefcourt

The feelings/ideas that inspire my poetic muse are wide ranging. Many focus on the sense of a particular place and moment, some on personal relationships (loves, regrets. pleasures), others on environmental issues and contemporary political-social problems, but I’m always open to writing about particularly amusing situations, such as the following IN WITH THE ENVIRONMENT. I was so proud of the composting toilet we installed in the guest cabin we had built on our cottage property some years ago. And then a thought about its unexpected not-so-pleasant effect took hold of me…


Seated nobly in cottage private space
is wise wife on solo business, apace.
Then down on her knees, so it’s not forgotten,
she’s “compost-friendly cleanser” swabbin’
to purify sweet the shiny bowl
of human droppings completely foul.
With task completed and standing upright
she swells with pride at the pedestal bright.

Plastic made, but of ceramic look,
it’s topped by a throne of old oak wood.
Musing, she eyes the seat of solidity
wouldn’t Mr. Crapper jump joyfully?
But ask, he might, where is the closet hid,
why does no water tank stand by the lid,
why no big stink assaults his knowing nose
when one moves the flap to open from close?

He would find no sewer pipe, fly or mouse
in this state-of-the-art in-house outhouse.
But to keep it in such a pristine state
means following steps both humble and great.
First, one must act with punctuality,
be in tune with own regularity:
with care, to excreta often adding
measured spoons rich of mossy peat padding,
occasional pinch and part of a cup
of friendly microbes and aqueous drops.
With simple smart trappings, aerate, blend, slice
by pulls on the handle many times twice.

Heeding directives will surely unfurl
organic alchemy: dung into pearls.
In several months time, perhaps a full year,
the decomposition becomes most clear.
When opened wide, the broad drawer below
bursts forth no stench, mere pseudo tobacco!
The aging mix is totally ready
from full black box to be quickly emptied.
Then bury the brew for further steeping,
enriching the earth in its safekeeping.
A while later, we don’t really know,
the dug up treasure will amaze and show
that any novice can improve thin soil,
by abetting nature with clever toil.

Towards all earth’s creatures around and about
show respect, not offense; never have doubt.
Full, of visions high-minded and mighty
the wife dances outside, stepping sprightly,
laughing broadly at her singular wit:
thoughts of grounds laced with her very own shit!
Molecular morsels, broken down slow;
energy, atoms for new life to grow.

Suddenly, by pines, loud birds are heard call
nearing the turning of a turret tall.
With neck craned to eye such activity,
the wife gasps, “There’s more to this recipe!”
To expel far beyond our lungs’ intake,
to shield us from reeks that make senses quake,
we cleverly build grand venting tower
that owes its thrust to electric power!

Meanwhile, resting from a mindless chore
where, on his knees, he’d been staining the floor,
the husband stands gazing across deck rail
at glories against which all others pale.
Basking in well-earned, serene elation
his mind floats to the bay’s undulations.
He hungrily savours the far shore long
where conifers mass in majesty strong.

But, sudden squawking pierces from behind
shakes placid air, jolts the dreamer’s mind.

Stretched out aloft on the pristine blue
a stately goose is leading its crew.
They veer sharp to skirt the stack’s release.
The grand vee breaks, of these Canada geese.
The husband surveying over the deeps
where the turning birds then gracefully sweep
to regain their course with wings a’thunder,
rivets his eyes in speechless wonder
at the brilliant guide whose flock’s now arrayed
in vee of perfection deftly remade.

Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.

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