The City Behind the Fence
It was born out of war, raised in secrecy,
and known for destruction.
Before the war Cherokee hunted here,
locals listen to the ravings of John Hendrix
spinning tales of massive white lily buildings.
28 years later he was right. The City
Behind the Fence grew silent and selective.
Guard post relics still stand on the city’s edge
where locals park to hike the trails.
World War II has ended, and we are forgotten
to all, but rowers.
Muscles taut pulling oars through
glassy green waters of Melton
Hill. Dip a line in and test your luck.
Known for the smoothest
water in the world. A spring bubbles
under foot feeding the outdoor pool.
Take the boat out and travel the 42
mile Clinch River.
Don’t like water?
There’s always disc-golf, regular golf,
perhaps tennis. If not, there is always
biking and hiking right up through Pine Ridge.
They say the land is left untouched to preserve its beauty.
Word of advice don’t go to the lake when they’ve released the Dam.
This poem is excerpted from “The Manhattan Project,” a chapbook manuscript depicting the locale and history of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Known as “The City Behind the Fence” and “The Secret City,” Oak Ridge was the home of the atomic bomb and about 30,000 citizens of multigenerational families: a city laid in the shadow of the horrific events from World War II. Using found information, reference material, and personal narrative, the poems from this manuscript have been constructed to detail the city’s history, mystery and cynicism. The speaker’s voice is the voice of the city.