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          The Barrens
          By Samuel Wharton

          we called it, though this small pocket
          of woods off the expressway was anything but.
          A hundred yards of rough, exhausted terrain
          like we imagined the old forests of the world must have been-
          our very own storm-drainage ditch, cluttered
          with the leavings of a thousand storms or more!
          We came here after heavy rains, bikes kicking up a spray
          from the still-wet streets, to glean what we could
          of the city's lost belongings. O the poor things
          that had been forgotten! A jeweled crown for a child queen,
          placed boldly on a live-oak's branch,
          marked this as a sacred place, the heart
          of our neighborhood domain. Our cathedral
          had its columns: sumac and cottonwood trees
          that arched and met far above our heads.
          We balanced wheels-tricycle, steering,
          spinning, even one potter's wheel-on the larger rocks,
          erecting cairns meant to warn infidels away, protect
          our sanctuary from the barbarians down the block.
          Toy boats we dredged up from the bottom,
          restored their awkward sails, set them seafaring again.
          They drifted down the culvert into a cavernous
          concrete pipe, the holiest of our holies, greatest
          of our unknowns, place of mysteries
          where no one dared to go. What a world
          we imagined! Ourselves the redeemers of outcast things,
          rescuers of flood remains, little saints of found
          objects. And so we spent our childhoods
          in a ditch, consoling what exiles we could, sending some
          on their way, helping others to again be of use,
          while the careless city swelled around us, forgot us.

          © Copyright 2004, Samuel Wharton, All Rights Reserved.

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Document last modified on: 01/06/2007

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