Friday, February 11, 2005


From a garden of waste ...
... a new world growing

Used to be a garden here, or so he imagines, walking through.

There are houses nearby, standing just beyond a wooden privacy fence, and he imagines that in the decades before the motorcars crawled here to die, people who lived in those houses had planted seeds and raised foodstuffs from the sandy soil of a field where this lot now sprawls.

There, where stacks of trashed Toyotas tower, once tomatoes grew. Ghosts of butterbeans linger under the broken-down Buicks and busted Beetles. Over time, collards by the bunch became corroded Corollas and Corvettes, still heavy with iron.

Where field peas waved, now Fords decompose, a compost heap of post-human waste, of heavy metal and dry-rotted rubber, of vinyl baked by the sun and cracked like a dried lake bottom.

Once, someone moved through green growth and spread Sevin dust from the balled-up end of an old sock, hoping to choke the chiggers and the worm that gnaws. Now the very elements erode. Steel becomes, through the magic of oxygen and entropy, dust.

Rust coats the earth, discolors the sand, swirls in oily eddies of mud and viscous motor fluids where once was upturned loam, hand-pulled weeds, and rows of wooden stakes with empty seed packets attached to mark the seedlings.

He imagines the rust farmer marking his metallic rows with stakes fashioned from gearshifts and signs made of the pristine covers ripped from untouched maintenance booklets taken out of looted glove compartments. Here are planted the Oldsmobiles, the markers would tell him, and this row has smashed Cadillacs sinking into the soft earth.

But this is no simple graveyard. It’s a way station.

People come to pick through the leavings — here a door, a mirror, a bumper, a quarter panel. Larger parts are left for scrap, and the earth inevitably reclaims its own.

Weeds sprout from fenders and root in rotted bucket seats. Saplings push up through gutted engine blocks, seeking sunlight.

He imagines, as he walks through, the trees that will stand here some day being removed, the earth again upturned, and green gardens planted beside the new houses built.

There, where Datsuns now disentegrate — tomatoes and butterbeans, collards and peas.

It’s a dream he has.



(Written for this Sunday's "Undercurrents" column for The News Herald.)
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