Tag Archives: suburban development

#297: Front Yard Haibun


Mid April, that Japanese maple explodes first with leaves and the giant oak trees follow its little footsteps a few weeks later. It all happens at once. Most years no one sees it. One day there are no leaves. Next day a million leaves. The grass greens. There’s a hammock sometimes to nap in and those darn squirrels are at the bird feeders at all hours. In the distance there, beyond the road, there used to be four solitary homes, also covered in green. They were also hard to see, hiding, blending in as if they belonged there. In this old photo, the roofline of one juts out from under the greenery. But while the blooming of the front yard appears to occur overnight, the disappearing of old homes, rentals, the removal of all that vegetation, and the building of new roads, new lines for water, sewer, gas, and electricity, and thirty-two new houses, these things take years, so that, without photographic evidence, it is hard to remember or imagine how different things used to be in those greener, quieter days.

A story erased
so that new ones can replace
and then germinate.

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#266: New Buildings–A Ghazal


We watched the four houses across the street destroyed for thirty-two new buildings,
the surrounding trees and plants and invisible creatures unearthed for new buildings.

In our old neighborhood, across that street, an outpatient hospital was demolished
to make way for an entire block of townhomes, bringing new people into new buildings.

This has been our experience, 26 years in two different homes, that some old thing
was ultimately torn asunder and replaced through the noise and dust by new buildings.

Lew’s Dari-Freeze is fenced off and ready for bulldozers. Our town’s oldest fast food
joint, terrible food I remember, but the place–old, classic, a marker, soon: new buildings.

On every block of our old stomping grounds, the old is going down and the new springs
up like weeds, only much nicer, but too expensive, too modern, these new buildings.

And in SE Portland many of the main thoroughfares are unrecognizable in their newness, all the old buildings and businesses replaced by giant sky-born new buildings.

It’s all for somebody’s good and benefit, maybe yours, maybe ours, and yet, something
goes missing, something disappears, and in time, the memories are erased,
replaced by new buildings.



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#191: On Walking Through My Neighborhood, Currently Under Construction, With the Time-Lapse Camera on My Phone

For day three of National Poetry Writing Month, I take a walk through my neighborhood, currently under construction, with a time lapse camera.  Here’s the poem I harvested on the experience.

On Walking Through My Neighborhood, Currently Under Construction, With the Time Lapse Camera on My Phone

“And it goes fast; you think of the past: suddenly everything has changed.” –Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips

The neighborhood I grew up in,
and now, after a twenty year exile,
the neighborhood in which
I currently live, is transforming,
expanding, bursting at the seems
with new construction: across
the street from my home, 32 houses
are going in where a short seven
months ago there were only four.
My son’s new friend, a little guy
he spent all last summer with, his dad
and his roommates, another family
and two other individuals, long-term
renters, were all forced to move.
My son never heard from
that young boy again, the only
personal casualty, besides the dozen
or more oak trees and scores
of other kinds of greenery, now
gone and replaced with gravel,
dirt, pipes, tractors, cranes,
trucks, all the industrial detritus
of progress.

I decide to walk out the front
door, down my own gravel drive,
across the street and into the
wreckage (abandoned now for the
weekend), and capture the scene
with my phone’s time-lapse
video. It’s a long walk through
this barren landscape bordered
by older developments and some
brand new ones from the previous
seven or eight years of steady
development, and my home
across the street, an English tudor
from 1931. Soon, within the half
year, a hundred people or so will
live here, will occupy this devastation
and bring it back to life.

So we grieve the displacement
of people, the tiny little creatures,
the trees, shrubs, and the old neglected
but affordable housing, and wait
for the new neighborhood to sprout
up here in this place, bringing. . .
who knows what, a newness,
a crisp, manicured and expensive
newness. Despite the mess, despite all the
various carnage of infill, possibility
abounds, and change, and we greet this
as best as we can (what choice do we have?)
with welcome and good cheer.

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#124: Bricks and Windows, Windows and Bricks

“The way they boxed us in here. Bricks and windows, windows and bricks.” –Willy Loman, Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller

the old neighborhood

the old neighborhood


In my old neighborhood they tore down
an abandoned psych hospital for new town homes.
There was no big loss, the end of an era
polluted by horrific scenes of suicidal escapees,
children being committed against their will,
an inmate shot for dangerously wielding a pencil.
Close it down.  Good riddance.  And welcome
to my new neighbors, a hundred of them, perhaps,
an entire city block turned into living space
for middle class families, retired people,
and single professionals, some who would
become good friends, a fitting reward
for tolerating the tear down, the noise of
machinery and trucks, hammering, drilling,
digging, pounding, whistles and beeps.
They put trees in the parking strips,
sadly removed one huge tree, but mostly
windows and bricks and wood and a tall
roof line replacing the ugly concrete
and the aforementioned psych ward.

Now, in my new neighborhood, four
houses across the street on double
or triple lots will be destroyed to make
way for 32 single-family homes.
So, here we go again.  But this time,
I’m conflicted.  They’re all rentals,
the landowner clearly making a killing
and turning affordable housing into
properties where none of her previous
tenants could ever dream of living.
Conversely, when the project’s finished,
my neighbors might be more like me,
which might be a good deal for my family,
but not necessarily good for people displaced
and trees and animals displaced to make way
for another new suburban development
where people used to plant gardens
and children could run for miles
in their own back yards.


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