APR 2019

All Issues
Poetry

three


ASHES TO ASHES



Life expectancy of a white U.S. male born in 1981, the year I was born: 71.1

Life expectancy of a white U.S. female born in 1983, the year my sister Emily was born: 78.7

Prevalence rate of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in the U.S. population: 0.002%

Factor by which women are more likely than men to have SLE: 9

Average number of years less than the general female population women with SLE are expected to live: 22

Number of years less than the general female population that my sister was expected to live with SLE, according to her rheumatologist: 48.7

Minimum number of years by which Emily’s lifespan has now exceeded the rheumatologist’s estimate: 5

Number of years Emily had been taking phenobarbital, a barbiturate used to prevent seizures, when she had her first severe lupus flare at age 16: 15

Number of months she took intravenous Cytoxan, a potent immunosuppressant typically used on cancer patients, to treat SLE: 6

Number of years she took prednisone, an immunosuppressant steroid, after completing her course of Cytoxan: 4

Approximate annual academic merit scholarship monies Emily received, at age 18, to attend Drew University: $20,000

Number of semesters she attended Drew before she was expelled for drug use: 1

Number of years Emily was an intravenous heroin user: 7

Number of years she was addicted to heroin: 4

Number of those years that she and I were estranged: 3

Number of times my parents and I discussed together our feelings about Emily’s medical or drug problems: 0

Percentage of those three estranged years that overlapped with my online poker habit: 100%

My approximate poker winnings--after a half-year hiatus from the game and playing at lower stakes than usual--during the Fall 2010 semester: $20,000

Total amount of money I deposited to online poker sites, ever: $500

At the height of my poker career, approximate amount of money I would have in play, across all tables, during a typical online session: $5,000

2010 CUNY Adjunct Instructor wage for a three credit course: $2,917.80

Number of CUNY courses I taught, as a doctoral student in the system, once I started making money at poker: 0

2010 Median Household Income of Staten Island’s Oakwood Beach neighborhood, where Emily and I grew up and where our parents still live: $69,264

Percentage of 2010 Oakwood Beach residents who were white: 90.7

Percentage who were Italian-American: 48.7

Factor by which Staten Island’s opioid overdose rate exceeds the rate of New York City’s other

four boroughs: 3

Months after Emily kicked her heroin addiction for the last time that her ex-boyfriend died of a heroin overdose: 3

Distance, in minutes driving, from our parents’ house to Great Kills, the neighborhood that is the statistical epicenter of Staten Island’s opioid epidemic: 3

Distance, in minutes driving, from our parents’ house to Staten Island’s Fresh Kills, the world’s largest landfill until its 2001 closure: 10

Distance, in city blocks, from our parents’ house to the Oakwood Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant: 10

Distance, in city blocks, from our parents’ house to the Oakwood Beach floodline after Hurricane Sandy in 2012: 1

Span of years during which I lived in that house: 1981 - 1999

Fraction of neighboring families’ children that I grew up with who, as adults, still live with their parent or parents in the same house: 4/7

Number of minutes I used to walk, at age 14, to meet a group of teens and go drinking on the steps of Moravian Cemetery’s Vanderbilt Mausoleum: 40

Houses away from my parents’ house that one person from that group, who now works for the Department of Sanitation, moved with his wife and children: 1

Number of times, in recent casual conversation with him, I thought about mentioning long-time DSNY artist-in-residence Mierle Laderman Ukeles but, not wanting to appear pretentious, thought better of it: 2

Date on which Fresh Kills landfill was supposed to receive its last barge of waste: March 22, 2001

Tons of material transported on an emergency basis from Ground Zero to Fresh Kills on September 11, 2001: 1,200,000

Daily tons of residential waste received by Fresh Kills during its peak operating capacity in the 1980s: 29,000

Approximate tons of solid waste currently in Fresh Kills: 150,000,000

Estimated year of completion for Freshkills Park, a New York City public park being built on top of the former landfill: 2037

Medium projected 2037 sea level rise, in inches, for the waters surrounding New York City: 12

Minimum number of objects that I threw away in 2015: 23,408

Percentage of those objects that were foodstuffs or food packaging: 14

Percentage made of paper: 81

Minimum number of toilet paper squares that I discarded in 2015: 10,417

Minimum number of junk mailings: 81

Of origami frogs: 1

Animal bones: 181



WASTE BOOK
(day-by-day sample)



10/1/15
50 squares of toilet paper; frozen waffle box + plastic lining bag; 14 paper towels; 3 plastic cups; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; plastic spoon; tinfoil food tray + plastic lid; plastic spoon; 6 napkins; 2 baby wipes; muffin baking cup, paper; paper cup; 8 plastic bags; hot dog package, plastic; frozen peas bag; frozen corn bag; 6 tissues; 1 piece, junk mail; 1 length of dental floss; apple core

10/2/15
tissue box; 4 tissues; hot dog bun bag; 1 magazine; 2 plastic cups; 60 pieces of paper; large envelope; tinfoil food container; plastic spoon, fork + knife; 1 piece tinfoil; plastic food container; plastic knife; 5 paper towels; union leaflet; museum ticket; 1 junk mail; 1 envelope; 1 bad apple; small plastic food container; uneaten cup of pesto sauce; 4 chicken bones; frozen edamame bag; 2 bowls of edamame shells; cardboard toilet paper tube; plastic raspberry box; plastic blueberry box

10/3/15
tissue box; 12 tissues; 50 squares of toilet paper; cardboard paper towel tube; 16 paper towels; sandwich wrapping; brown paper bag; soap wrapper; 1 origami frog; plastic yogurt container; plastic food container; 2 pieces, tinfoil; pork chop bone; pork chop wrapping; salad bag, plastic; apple core; 8 pieces, used masking tape; 2 handfuls of peanuts; small bag of dates rolled in oats; 1 handful, pretzels; 1 length of dental floss

10/4/15
coffee grounds bag; coffee filter + used grounds; 1 egg shell; cold cut wrapping; half an uneaten grapefruit; pork chop bone; museum ticket; museum sticker; small paper coffee cup; 7 tissues; 4 receipts; apple core; small plastic bag; turkey burger wrapping

10/5/15
frozen waffle box + plastic lining bag; glass pasta sauce jar; glass barbeque sauce flask; orange rind; coffee filter + used grounds; 2 glass salad dressing containers; 90 squares of toilet paper; glass peanut butter jar; chicken cutlet wrapping; ground pork wrapping; frozen brown rice box; frozen brown rice plastic package; frozen peas bag; 1 piece, junk mail; 2 junk mail magazines

10/6/15
plastic food container; tinfoil quiche tray; plastic fork + knife; paper plate; plastic cup

10/7/15
50 squares of toilet paper; 13 paper towels; 2 lengths of dental floss; coffee filter + used grounds; English muffin box + bag; 2 pieces, tinfoil; head of cauliflower bag; 1 piece of Tupperware; plastic juice box package wrapper; 2 plastic trail mix bags; handful of cranberry trail mix; 6 tortilla shells; plastic tortilla shell bag; 10 rice cakes; plastic rice cake bag; 2 bowls of granola; 3 ziploc bags; handful of cheese puffs; handful of almonds; chocolate lollipop + wrapper; 4 gummy snack pouches; handful of gummy bears; 2 plastic food containers; handful of pine nuts; 2 dozen shelled pistachios; small lime; handful of peanut m+m’s

10/8/15
tinfoil food tray + plastic lid; 4 plastic cups; 7 napkins; 2 plastic forks; plastic knife; 2 paper plates; sundry pork bones; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; brown paper bag; 8 paper towels; 25 squares of toilet paper; 2 baby wipes; 5 tissues; 2 pieces, note paper; 1 length of dental floss

10/9/15
cardboard toilet paper tube; coffee filter + used grounds; frozen waffle box + plastic lining bag; 2 plastic straws; 50 squares of toilet paper; 3 plastic bags; 2 plastic food containers; plastic fork, knife + spoon; 4 napkins; plastic cup; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; used condom + wrapper; 1 length of dental floss

10/10/15
2 receipts; sandwich wrapping; 3 napkins; brown paper bag; 1 length of dental floss; 1 magazine; grocery list; 50 squares of toilet paper

10/11/15
museum ticket; 3 tissues; 4 paper towels; pasta bag, plastic; 2 plastic food containers; 2 glass pasta sauce jars; frozen vegetables bag; 1 receipt; 1 length of dental floss; 50 squares of toilet paper

10/12/15
English muffin; ziploc bag; pork chop wrapping; ravioli box + plastic wrapping; coffee filter + used grounds; sandwich wrapping; 3 napkins; receipt; plastic bag; 6 tissues; 3 paper towels; 2 pork fat rinds; 1 piece, tinfoil; gallon milk jug, plastic; 50 squares of toilet paper

10/13/15
5 paper towels; 2 baby wipes; paper plate; plastic fork, knife + spoon; sandwich wrapping; 1 napkin; 80 squares of toilet paper; 1 length of dental floss; used condom + wrapper

10/14/15
25 squares of toilet paper; 1 paper towel; 5 tissues; bread bag; small container of ground pork; 2 pork chop fat rinds; uneaten bunch of asparagus; half bag of grapes + plastic bag; 4 pieces, avocado; uneaten pork chop; handful, uneaten rice; half piece, moldy salmon; 1 tortilla shell; half an uneaten turkey burger; tissue box; cracker box; 1 length of dental floss

10/15/15
1 Q-tip; 25 squares of toilet paper; 1 paper towel; 1 tissue; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; plastic sushi tray; plastic fork; 5 napkins; tinfoil food tray + plastic lid; 2 plastic spoons; 1 junk mail; plastic take out bowl + lid; wooden chopsticks; plastic food container; plastic face wash dispenser; 1 length of dental floss

10/16/15
glass peanut butter jar; 50 squares of toilet paper; cardboard toilet paper tube; toilet paper roll plastic wrapping; receipt; sandwich wrapping; 4 napkins; 2 baby wipes; 3 paper towels; tinfoil food tray + plastic lid; plastic spoon; 1 beer bottle; pear core; 1 length of dental floss

10/17/15
12 tissues; 3 cold cut wrappings; several spoonfuls of oatmeal; 2 apple cores; plastic food container; 1 piece, tinfoil; brown paper bag; 6 napkins; plastic dry cleaning bag; 2 magazines; plastic gift card; plastic gallon water jug; microwave popcorn bag; microwave popcorn box; 1 piece, tissue paper; 1 rose; bunch of carnations; 8 paper towels; frozen vegetable bag; shrimp bag; glass pasta sauce jar; pasta box; 2 receipts; plastic Listerine bottle; 1 piece, note paper

10/18/15
frozen waffle box + plastic lining bag; grapefruit rind; 60 squares of toilet paper; banana peel; apple core; chicken cutlet package; plastic pasta bag; cauliflower head plastic wrapping; 2 pieces, tinfoil; chili marinade glass jar; 12 paper towels; 6 tissues; wooden chopsticks; 1 napkin; small paper coffee cup; 1 length of dental floss

10/19/15
banana peel; 2 tinfoil food trays + plastic lids; plastic fork, spoon + knife; 3 napkins; small coffee filter + used grounds; 5 pieces, junk mail; 2 receipts; 2 plastic clothes wrappings; 1 length of dental floss

10/20/15
2 baby wipes; 8 paper towels; 1 tinfoil food container + plastic lid; plastic fork + knife; 1 napkin; 4 tissues

10/22/15
25 squares of toilet paper; 2 baby wipes; 9 paper towels; small plastic dinner roll bag; coffee filter + used grounds; receipt; tinfoil food tray + plastic lid; 6 napkins; plastic sushi tray; soy sauce packet; wasabi clump; ginger slices pile; union newspaper; envelope; 1 length of dental floss; small plastic cup; paper plate; 2 plastic forks; plastic knife; paper cup; plastic plate; gallon plastic water jug

10/23/15
1 paper towel; 5 napkins; 2 baby wipes; sandwich wrapping; receipt; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; plastic spoon; microwave popcorn bag; 3 plastic grocery bags; roast chicken carcass; ravioli box + plastic wrapping; 1 piece, junk mail; 1 junk mail magazine; hanger + dry cleaning wrapping; plastic food container; 2 condoms + wrappers; 1 length of dental floss

10/24/15
50 squares of toilet paper; plastic soup bowl; 5 tissues; 3 paper towels; receipt; paper towel tube; toilet paper tube

10/25/15
soap wrapper; travel tissue wrapper; 2 tinfoil food containers + plastic lids; museum ticket; handful of uneaten spaghetti; 25 squares of toilet paper; 4 napkins; paper cup; sandwich wrapping; large paper coffee cup; receipt; 3 paper towels; 1 piece, note paper; apple core; 2 lengths of dental floss; 1 q-tip; gallon plastic water jug; tissue box; 7 tissues; museum ticket

10/26/15
2 apple cores; plastic food container; 1 paper towel; bread bag; 10 tissues; broken electric razor blade, ceramic; 1 magazine; sausage wrapping; plastic pasta bag; frozen vegetable bag; 2 receipts; return receipt label; 25 squares of toilet paper; Snapea Crisp bag; hot dog bun bag; large kitchen garbage bag; 3 pieces, junk mail; 1 junk mail catalogue; plastic granola bag; 1 length of dental floss

10/27/15
frozen waffle box + plastic lining bag; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; plastic spoon; 5 napkins; 2 baby wipes; 5 paper towels; 6 tissues; paper plate; tinfoil quiche tray + plastic lid; plastic food container; plastic fork + knife; coffee filter + used grounds; 2 receipts; 25 squares of toilet paper; apple core; 1 length of dental floss

10/28/15
apple core; plastic food container; 7 paper towels; coffee filter + used grounds; 1 tissue; 6 napkins; envelope; 1 piece of paper; receipt; tinfoil food tray + plastic lid; plastic spoon; 1 length of dental floss; 50 squares of toilet paper

10/29/15
2 q-tips; 6 paper towels; receipt; 2 baby wipes; brown paper bag; tinfoil food container + plastic lid; plastic fork + knife; 2 napkins; tissue box; 2 tissues; coffee filter + used grounds; plastic banana bag; banana peel; 4 uneaten chicken cutlets; 50 squares of toilet paper

10/30/15
6 paper towels; 3 baby wipes; plastic yogurt parfait cup + insert; plastic spoon; 35 squares of toilet paper; 1 piece, note paper; coffee filter + used grounds; plastic gift card; plastic granola bag; paper food container; 1 length of dental floss

10/31/15
frozen waffle box + plastic lining bag; apple core; 2 magazines; small plastic yogurt container; brown paper bag; 2 sandwich wrappings; 12 napkins; tortilla chips bag; coffee filter + used grounds; 10 tissues; condom + wrapper; plastic food container; 2 plastic cups




WASTE BOOK
(counting stats)



Categorized totals
food containers, glass: 47
plastic bags, general: 549
plastic bags, food packaging: 268
food containers, plastic: 391
tinfoil food containers + plastic lids: 48
plastic utensils: 185
cups, paper: 93
cups, plastic: 112
cups, styrofoam: 5
napkins: 1,100
tissues: 2,765
pieces of paper: 2,049
paper towels: 1,501
food containers, paper: 122
lengths of dental floss: 180
squares of toilet paper: 10,417
non-food containers, paper: 79
food wrappings, paper: 399
food wrappings, plastic: 180
non-foodstuff containers, plastic: 40
non-foodstuff wrappings, plastic: 170
non-foodstuff wrappings, paper: 33
large non-foodstuffs: 115
small non-foodstuffs: 456
baby wipes: 106
food containers, metal: 8




Individual item totals (sample)
gallon water jugs, plastic: 23
1 liter seltzer bottles, plastic: 77
cardboard boxes: 57
origami frogs: 1
plates, plastic: 12
plates, paper: 40
pieces of tinfoil: 34
brown paper bags: 47
cups of uneaten solid food: 33
uneaten foodstuffs, whole: 43
uneaten foodstuffs, large pieces: 291
uneaten foodstuffs, small pieces: 193
liquid ounces of uneaten semi-solid food: 114
cups of vegetable shells/ends: 12.5
fruit (+egg) shells/rinds/peels: 65
scraps, globs, stems, pits, veins, etc.: 423
clumps of used coffee grounds: 91
coffee filters: 91
fruit cores: 123
animal carcasses: 4
animal bones: 21
tea bags: 72
tea bag wrappers: 66
pieces of junk mail: 65
cough drop wrappers: 57
magazines: 41
condoms: 49
condom wrappers: 49
receipts: 282
butcher wrappings, paper + plastic: 73
tickets: 48

Contributor

Louis Bury

Louis Bury is the author of Exercises in Criticism (Dalkey Archive) and Assistant Professor of English at Hostos Community College, CUNY. He writes regularly about visual art for Hyperallergic and BOMB, and his creative and critical work has been published in Bookforum, Los Angeles Review of Books, Tripwire, Boston Review, and The Believer.

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APR 2019

All Issues