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May 06, 2016
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Without boundaries: A found poem*

My family has been here for four generations
My wife and I bought property here six years ago
My family and I, we’ve had a house here for 18 years
My family has been coming here since 1900

    I grew up in the Catskills
    I swam in the streams, the lakes
    I went fishing, I climbed the mountains
    I ate the corn.

I was born in Callicoon
Raised in Eldred
I live in Cochecton
I have two businesses on Main Street
I am not an outsider though I live in Glen Spey
Don’t you know me? Then get over to the library
I live and work in this wonderful town
I’m 16 and I ought to be working on my homework right now
    But I’m not, because I’m here
    because it’s important to me.

My love of this land and water is vast

I didn’t know that you could live in an area for 28 years
    and be an outsider
I didn’t know you could generate income
    and collect sales tax
    and not be a stakeholder

We’re not an island
We are all stakeholders
Stakeholders in each others’ towns
Regardless of boundaries
All of us who breathe air, and drink water,
And cherish our peace and quiet

The river does not speak
But is a stakeholder
I am speaking for the river
The millions of non-human species around us
No one speaks for them. They also are stakeholders.

I am here to speak for my five-year-old son Alec
    and the next generation after that
    and the next generation after that.
When we moved here, we chose it
    because he would have a childhood
    he would have an innocent childhood.

There’s something very special here
The clean water and air, the quiet roads

Now there’s some ready cash to be made

Drilling creates side effects
that do not respect property boundaries
Trucks and noise
Drill pads and foul water
69,000 trucks coming over that bridge
right over there, down on the corner
People whose water supplies are tainted
Whose home values have dropped by 90%
Fields turned into open pits of chemicals

People literally walked away from their farms
The water was polluted and the air was polluted,
The noise from the pump stations and the truck traffic
And the livestock were dying

What I saw brought tears to my eyes
Could the land I love so much
    come to this end?
I do not want to live in an industrial-corporate colony.

I’m asking the zoning rewrite committee
to keep Article 14 in place
I thank you for it
I beg you to keep it in
Tusten has the chance to lead the way for all of us.

If you drive north on Route 97
Right before you get to Callicoon
There’s this little cemetery
Right before the river takes a bend
And in it there are buried 12 veterans
    of the Revolutionary War.
Those are our ancestors.

If they had feared what the outcome would be
    we wouldn’t be here.

Who knows what the outcome of all this may be?
We are not going to be happy saying,
“We could have done something, but we were afraid.”

Who knows what the outcome of all this may be?

It may even be victory.


*Found poems are poems created out of fragments of verbiage uttered or written by parties other than the author. This one is composed from comments submitted at the Town of Tusten’s public hearing for its zoning rewrite on Monday, October 10. It was the only way we could think of that we could come close to sharing the remarkable spirit of this meeting with our readers.
Our thanks go to all who commented at or attended the meeting, to the zoning rewrite committee and to consultant Dr. William Pammer, with special thanks to those whose voices are heard above: April Bidwell, Andrew Boyar, Darryl Brasseale, Peter Comstock, Kathy Grady, Olivia Grady, Stanley Harper, J. Morgan Puett, Penelope Lohr, Arnold Melman, Jane Morris, Carol Roig, Allison Rourk, Matt Solomon, Tony Staffieri, Ani Stanley, Teressa Steaktey and Vera B. Williams. (Please forgive us for any omissions or misspellings; we checked the names against several sources including the sign-in sheets, but the writing in some cases was not clear.) It was a privilege to share the evening with you.