A new poem by Donald McGrath

Champ des Possibles, or the Crying of Lot 2334609

Friends of the Champ des possibles crowd into the Arts Café
to make a case for keeping the “wild lot wild.” A local artiste
described as “a sort of Xena goddess”
by a member of the gardening ensemble Sprout Out Loud,
has planted sage, hosta, bee balm and red clover
to form a giant Roerich peace sign. It’s an upside down
cartoon-panda face: three dots inside
a kind of crop circle—just in case City Hall
ever gets a hankering to strafe or bomb
or, what’s worse, “develop,” this hallowed, fallow land.
The artiste has history on her side, she knows
that the pictogram instills a fierce love
of culture in bombardiers and makes
a pax cultura something you can “bank on”
in the midst of “war.” There’s so much
pent-up passion in this café that you just want
to open a window and let in some air.
A man stands up: “Think,” he says,
“of the city as a body. Now what part of that body
would you call le Champ?” He’d call it
—before anyone has a real chance to answer—an ear:
“because you can stand in there and, like, hear shit.”
A woman riffs off this: “I see it as not just an ear
but as an inner ear because the whole thing’s
all about balance, is it not?” Few seem
particularly to care that, in its last career,
le Champ was a CP Rail lot and is still
a rotter, sister, contaminated twenty turtles down.
A hundred willow sticks, inserted to drain off the pus,
were mowed down in the City’s blitz on ragweed—but never mind.
A cultural studies graduate opines: “To define
a place as wild is, by definition, to “un-wild it.”
And so it goes until the moderator calls
for special memories. O yes, there was that time
hipster cowboys took to boiling coffee
in a tin can mounted on a tripod
over a roaring blaze, and gave it out
in origami cups to passers-by.
But what I’d like to know is this: has no one seen
a grime-stiffened man, track marks down his arms,
rouse himself from a bush festooned with plastic bags
in a corner of this urbane Arcadia?