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.

Amanda Owens

Amanda Owens is graduating from Cumberland University with a degree in English and a minor in Creative Writing. Her manuscript, "The Manhattan Project," focusing on her native city of Oak Ridge, was completed as a Senior Project with advisor Sandee Gertz. She will be working as an emergency services dispatcher after graduation, continuing to write in her spare time.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN