Street Garden

Written by: Edmund Siejka



Ever pass a street garden
On the lower East Side
You know the kind
Long and narrow
Squeezed between two tenements
Ever wonder how it came to be
Who made it?
Where did it come from?

Odds and ends 
And garden tools clutter one corner
Benches are set aside
A children’s swing waits at the far end
The garden is not magnificent
Like the ones you see in suburbia
But like every garden in the City
It beckons to you with a history of its own
Take a long look
When you peer through the chain link fence
See the rows of growing green things
They didn’t happen by accident.

Grassroots activists fought to stop the decay of the lower East Side
Squatters took over abandoned houses
Theirs were marked by struggle
Hardship 
And violence 
They and kindred spirits captured the activism of the 70’s and 80’s
From Alphabet City
Running along Avenue A to Avenue D
They used terms
Everyone understood
Affordable apartments 
Living spaces.

Neighborhood volunteers
Worked the soil
Hunched over
Hands black with dirt
Digging past bricks, rocks and rubble 
Breaking up the ground
Feeling the moistness of the Earth
In their fingertips
Their whole being 
Sensing the beginnings of new life.