Desire Lines

I love reading. I always have three or four books going at a time. A life-long habit which may or may not have had any bearing on my making a career in librarianship. While I wish I could say all of my reading is profound and enlightening, I’ll confess to really liking a good vampire romance.

Years ago, while reading an eclectic and enlightening bit of nonfiction–like Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust, I stumbled across an architectural concept–desire lines–which fascinated me.

Basically, architects build structures but will often leave surrounding pathways unfinished for a brief period to allow users of those spaces to choose the pathways they desire. The architects watch for those pathways or lines of wear in the soft surfaces, like grass or sand, to figure out where to set permanent pathways, i.e. sidewalks or gravel paths.

I love thinking my need for a quick way between university buildings dictates where generations of other students will wend their way around campus. Or how my love for solitude decides the direction of a hiking trail.

Reminds me too of how when writing poetry I can influence a reader’s very breath.


Desire Lines


The man, sharp in the humid froth of budded trees,
is convinced his hand’s map explains his failures. He watches
briefly the women, cool in sheer tops and clinging wisps of skirts.
Waves of them move past his green isle of a bench.

The pocketed scrap he uses to wipe the fine spray of sweat
from his face flashes a white arc when it slips his grasp. He knows
what must be done now, sees the pathway clearing before him.
If thy right hand offends thee, cut it off.

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