Fall 2016

Edited by Barry Kitterman | Andrea Spofford | Amy Wright


Floating Island of Plastic

​Neil Shepard

Charles Moore, returning home through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the trans-Pacific sailing race in 1997, came upon an enormous stretch of floating debris... Scientists subsequently dubbed it The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.


In the horse latitudes, the gyre keeps feeding

styrene to this trough, where north Pacific

currents conspire to send it, as if the message

were not clear enough, how our reckoning is

here, X’ed, worthless as a dead horse, dumb

as polymer assuming the system of sea-kelp.

It is our signature on the high seas, our writing

systems written large across all recorded history;

it is our Ur agriculture and our urban culture packaged

together and shipped across – not quite across – the sea,

claimed by no one, an orphan we’ve all made,

and abandoned, dumped, as we turn back

to our pleasures. A pleasure ship dumps

eight solid tons of pleasure-trash each week.

A Frisbee or foam-board abandoned on Big Sur

floats to this dumping ground in a year. The ocean

abrades it into something scientific, nurdles,

or something poetic, mermaid’s tears, micro-

beads the sea wears around her for all her years.   




Neil Shepard has published seven books of poetry, two of them in 2015: Hominid Up (Salmon Poetry, Ireland) and Vermont Exit Ramps II (Green Writers Press, VT). His poems appear in hundreds of literary magazines, among them Boulevard, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, New England Review, New American Writing, North American Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and TriQuarterly.


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