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The Albany Bulb

Margaret Tilden
copyright © 2001

Bird droppings
Become trees and
Tangle among the wires.
Concrete is
Surrounded by green
In various shades.
The land is
Man´s trash
Covered with
The joys of nature.
Little paths
Lead me through
Wild twisted branches
Into the abandoned wreckage
Of people's lives,
The former homes of those
Who lived outside
By choice or otherwise,
Taken by
The fears and judgments
Of those who do not understand.

It was my first time there.
I felt unsure,
Timid, and
I, too, felt afraid as the
Unknown surrounded me
The beauty,
As the beauty
The tossed away destruction.
In the distance
Two cities
Two bridges
A mountain.
The water, choppy,
Dark, but
Sparkling with sunlight,
Lapped at the shore.
A dog sauntered by
Its owner´s hello
Taking my fear
Allowing me to
Remember the sunshine.

I walked on and over the hill
And there it was
Completely unexpected
Inspiring my awe.
It is a museum
Filled first with anger, but also,
And truth,
Painted on logs
And boards
And rocks.
A giant man built from foam
Sits in a clearing
Facing the Bay,
His head fallen
Lying crooked
On the grass.
I walked through
The enormous foam archway
With its intricate iron work decorations
Into the sculpture garden
Then tiptoed back out
Unsure if I belonged.

I walked again through the archway.
As I showed it to others
I felt protective
Of its essence
As if the possibility of their ridicule
Would wound my very center.
We walked the beach nearby
To search for weird and wonderful
Amid the scum and trash
Discarded by the careless and
The thoughtless.
One man, alone
Shy, politically green
Carrying a small plastic bag
Bent to the challenge:
Picking up, collecting
Cleaning away
The bits and pieces
Of others´ ingratitude.
I spoke to him
Thankful for that gift.

Before I left he gave me
A candle washed in from the sea.
As I carried it cradled in my hands
A delicate, speckled, green, beetle
Settled upon it.
I tried to set it free
Blowing it softly off the candle.
It fell to the ground
In front of a car.
I made the car wait
While I rescued
The beautiful, green bug.
Gently, I put it
Back on my candle
Unsure, still, if I should take it.
It flew in circles in my car.
I opened the window
Again, allowing it freedom.
It settled on the edge of the half open window
Unsure, also, it seemed,
whether to go or stay.
As I slowly drove home
The green bug stayed
Moving neither in nor out.
At home I carefully
Placed it on the sea candle
On a red desert rock
In my garden.

I wonder . . .
Where are all the people
Who lived at the ends
Of the many
Narrow paths?
Have they found places
Where they can be?

January 14, 2001

For background information about the "Albany Bulb" landfill nature preserve art enclave and free-for-all homeless encampment see:
People Are Trees Too and Whitman Revisited

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