City Ditch

November 3, 2007
By Dagenet Stern, Richmond, VA

Soda cans and broken bottles are sleeping on cement. Cracks and chips pocket the surface while color paint stains the walls with hate. Clouds always cover this place, a shadow upon it forever cast. No glint or sparkle emits from this scar just paint flakes and dust. I am walking down this barren place; the click of my shoe against pavement is my only company. This run off drain is barren and lifeless. It hasn’t felt water in years. A breeze carries a crumbled up, yellow newspaper down its sides. It dances amongst the broken pieces. No life has been here in ages. Just dead. Stone dead. A broken doll head rolls off to the side. Her hair is almost gone. No shadow follows me, just my conscience. Bullet shells dwell on the ground, there mates in the dozen holes in the side. Brown streaks the sides of the wall. So bare. So cold. I look up to see a bird; it’s too high to see what kind it is. A slight breeze rustles the bits of plastic trash on the ground. The city put this run off drain here by the creek because of the hurricane four years back. It really hasn’t done well here, a useless cement scar in the city. A couple of trees are a ways off. They won’t venture to close to the coldness this scar offers. My feet skid against the ground. More colors of hate are splashed on the sides. Already colors mesh as one gang overtops another. It’s just four years old. I stare at the bullets on the floor. The breeze rolls them but they manage to roll around back to where they belong. I look into the gaping hole that is the source of the run off. I don’t dare venture in there. There will probably be more shells or worse, the carrier of them. The air gets colder. This spot is a tomb. Death is embedded here. I turn in front of me to see the receding line of the creek. It has yet to touch this scar I’m standing in. The trees shout at me to leave. I can see them thrashing at me. They are so far away. I smell the faint smell of smoke. An old box of cigarettes lies at my feet. The cardboard is all moldy and the slight hint of tobacco falls from one corner. The plastic around it is even yellow. This place is a crypt. I lean on the left wall and look across. Erosion already is splitting the wall in half. A crack, right down in front of me, runs between my legs and up the spine of the run off. In another four years this part will probably have fallen down into the creek. So strange, a creek flows right down the middle of the city. Not many people know or remember it but it runs underneath the streets. But at this place it’s released. It feels for the air around it just as I am. The cement feels cold against my back. I touch it with my fingertips and feel thousands of spiky bumps stabbing at me. I used to sit on this very spot before it was cut into. I used to write here. Now this place is dead, ruined for my enjoyment. The clouds are heavy and grey. I look up and can not help but squint a little bit at the dullness of it. I hear the soft buzzing of flies. They are probably eating away at a poor creature that lost its way. A siren rings in my ears. A fire truck. Than another, and another, and another. Someone more unfortunate than this dead animal is probably being eaten by flies right now. I look back at the gaping hole. The cold air seems to be coming from there. I walk closer and here a crunch. The doll head is no more. Broken pieces of glass seem to be multiplying under my feet as I venture closer. A mosaic of color dances in this bloodless morgue. More hatred yells from the walls. It is all around me. A newspaper clipping catches my eye, something to do with a missing child. It’s stained brown and yellow. It’s amazing all the things that people forget about in this little hell. This is the city ditch, where everyone dumps their hate. And as I drop this notebook on the ground, I’ve just dumped mine.

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