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LOVERS LANE, DALLAS, TEXAS -- Public Art Proposal (1994)
This history poem I wrote, after a research trip to Dallas in the summer of 1994, was to be distributed across ten photographic images of Osage Orange trees, each panel to be fabricated on 4'x5' sheets of powder-coated steel and installed at the Lovers Lane light rail station in Dallas. The first five panels were to be positioned on the southbound platform, for those on their way downtown. The last five were to be on the northbound platform, for those returning home from work downtown (or elsewhere). The proposal was not commissioned.
LOVERS LANE, DALLAS c. 1889-1911
How do we reach history, catch a glimpse of the past as we wait to catch the train? Do we dig down, net some roots, a fossil perhaps of mammoth- a fragment once fed from these horse apples? And these horse apples, pods green and bumpy day or night- if we lay them out can we bring back the Indians?
The Osage? Carving their bows from these trees? Osage Orange. Bow Wood. Bois d'Arc. They traveled the Trinity, White Rock Creek; we travel the Central with an ebb and flow of our own and we cut through that past to build it, cut the roots of those trees and turned wood to foundations and now those buildings have grown- five miles to downtown and you can see it from here.
And that's the word on this wood- this Osage Orange- that you cut it and it sprouts roots again, branches, grows back from a board where it's stuck in the ground and you think of settlers: cut from what they knew in Europe, Africa, Mexico. They planted farms here, staked out grants and boundary lines, built fences with this wood and now there are trees and family trees- trees grown from posts and families grown from strolls beneath those trees on
Lovers Lane. A path on the edge of May Dickson's farm. She was the one who named it-she who loved Shakespeare, the Carnegie Library -named it for "just what the name says," says a card at the Hall of State,
that quarry where we bring to daylight other bits of story compressed in layers, shelved awaiting us: that her husband Henry Exall loved horses, raised them on this Lomo Alto Farm, that he laid out streets and John Armstrong then raised houses, and his wife Alice then gave land for S.M.U.-and we do feel their touch, these lovers, on the page of this neighborhood.
But it's at night, still, when we return to this station-this street-called Lovers Lane, and it's this name, this literary badge that roots us in our past, that lets us read
in the dark coming home from downtown you stand feeling the envelope of limbs against you as the train burrows into the station, tunnels under the arches and you stroll into twilight, squinting to touch the past: At first you spy pavement, discern moonlight straining through leaves. But your eyes widen at pylons, imagine fenceposts, sense cataracts of tile giving way to Bois d'Arc trees.
And it's now you feel the trees inching towards each other, the lovers inching towards each other, limbs leaning, creating this tunnel, this arched shelter.
And when you crane to survey that shelter, those girders spanning the tracks, you are riveted: Yes, even the Osage have returned- returned not to carve bows this time but to poise them there above you, grown again from the very trees whose roots have known so much-
bows aimed upwards waiting for you to raise one of these seed pods, one of these brailled moons and, under some arch of night, launch it toward the future.
Jack Balas, 1994