Junk Toys | Creative Writing | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published June 23, 2004 at 4:00 a.m.

In the jam of congested alleys

and on the paths in remote bush lands

I noticed African children race home-built toys.

Push-toys with long handles for steering

made from bleach and detergent bottles,

indestructible for use or as refuse,

ingeniously cut and hinged to imitate long-haul freighters,

or piped with windows like the high-wheeled overland buses.

All rode wooden or plastic cap wheels

of disproportionate size like the real

which must straddle and overcome

the swamps and ranges called roads.

Some toy buses for market, made of wood scraps,

wire for working springs,

and pounded out in tin can sides

cut and painted the white and blue

of the national transport company,

reminded me of our local failing general store

where the only work the husband performed

was cutting and carving models,

from busted nail kegs, fruit crates, cigar boxes,

of carriages and wagons such as his elders

employed. Sometimes he would place them out

on garden poles to no known end but ruin.

Mostly he hung them about the store for outsiders.

He would point to them as his industry,

talk of sales, and overprice them for our longing.

Such fidelity for tourists rules south of here

in dusty alleys and under dry-wash bridges

and the porticos and plazas of colonial bomas,

as bicycles and tricycles

and wagons and oxen take form from cast off wire

in the hands of practiced street children.

Hand-held perfection in shape and workings,

souvenirs but seldom toys.

But in this land, country or city,

children trundled their caravans of recycled

workaday goods made truly plastic,

form, and form of, play.


"Junk Toys" appears in In The Rain Shadow, forthcoming from University Press of New England. Copies can be ordered at www.upne.com.