Children playing in vacant lot in Negro section of Chicago: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941
again today, a masterful forbearance.
A masterful forbearance, the children
too, playing on the sidewalk,
and in the vacant lot, that
they don't all go away, one by one,
one could love them both, the trees
and the children.
1 playing with a white ball, 2 in a frail tree
climbing for the crown. My daughter alone
on the mound of rubbish sand disappears
into a cave of pink rug.
then a sense of patience.
Her, my daughter's well of forbearance.
The playmate she wades across the sand to
is dark black, a color.
Nearby the process, a game of ball.
Ah, the vacant lot is vast, I can speak of love
only at the edge.
In early February  Ed and Helene Dorn, with Helene's two children from a previous marriage, moved on to San Francisco, taking a four-room furnished flat at 184 States Street in Corona Heights... "They allowed CHILDREN! Wow!" ... Across the alley behind [the] house a disused parking lot was given over to kids' games. "Fred [Buck], natch, he & 7 others, have a great fort built in the vacant parking lot across the alley," Helene noted. Fred Buck still recalls that vacant lot, "where my mates and I dug a hole (for a trap or clubhouse of something) and covered it over with a cruddy piece of pink carpet from the same lot. I think I remember trying to get my sister and her friend to try to walk across it (à la catching heffalump)."
The vacant lot supplied [Dorn] the location for a poem. He called the poem "The Common Site," then later changed the title to "The Common Lot" when including it in his first chapbook (The Newly Fallen, 1961). It represents for the poet a thoughtful self-situating within the value-sets that define the moral world of his poetry. The language reverberates with the abiding terms of those values -- common, forbearance, love, patience, speak, hopefully but tentatively counterposed against all that is implied by vacant. The central paradox underlying Dorn's early lyric premise is here stated: to speak of love is possible only at the alienated margins of the social vacancy. Only by way of absence is utopian presence imaginable. The poet, while acknowledging his inevitable sharing in the common "lot" or condition, is reminded by his attendance upon the common site (the vacant lot) that his presence will always be that of the speaker at the edge.
from TC: Edward Dorn: A World of Difference, 2002
A child of white migrants in her playhouse. The rusted scales represented a clock to the little girl. Near Harlingen, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection)
A child of white migrants in her playhouse. Near Harlingen, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection)
Children of migrant cherry pickers: photo by John Vachon, Berrien County, Michigan, July 1940
Boys playing with bows and arrows near railroad yards, Dubuque, Iowa: photo by John Vachon, April 1940
Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress