Last weekend I went to Radnor Lake again and, because it was crowded, I took a stroll down the Historic Valve House Trail, which, despite being historic, is both the newest trail and one of the least used and I could tell it hadn’t gotten a lot of use because there was a thorny blackberry vine growing right across the trail.
Here’s a quick history of Radnor Lake: it’s a manmade lake that was dug by railroad workers in the 1910s to provide water for cattle and steam engines at the rail yards four miles away. A few years ago I was part of the volunteer crew that helped move this piece of the original pipe to its current location along the trail:
While the lake provided water to the railroads it and the surrounding forest were also a recreation area for a few wealthy railroad magnates and their families who used it for hunting and fishing. Then, in 1973, the state and citizens raised the money to purchase the area and it became a state park. Now it’s open to everyone.
That and the bramble I had to duck under reminded me this poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, in which he goes from freedom to humiliation but, subtly, still gets the last laugh:
They left my hands like a printer’s
Or thief’s before a police blotter
& pulled me into early morning’s
Terrestrial sweetness, so thick
The damp ground was consecrated
Where they fell among a garland of thorns.
Although I could smell old lime-covered
History, at ten I’d still hold out my hands
& berries fell into them. Eating from one
& filling a half gallon with the other,
I ate the mythology & dreamt
Of pies & cobbler, almost
Needful as forgiveness. My bird dog Spot
Eyed blue jays & thrashers. The mud frogs
In rich blackness, hid from daylight.
An hour later, beside City Limits Road
I balanced a gleaming can in each hand,
Limboed between worlds, repeating one dollar.
The big blue car made me sweat.
Wintertime crawled out of the windows.
When I leaned closer I saw the boy
& girl my age, in the wide back seat
Smirking, & it was then I remembered my fingers
Burning with thorns among berries too ripe to touch.