prose sketch: Victoria Park

Sat. 4 May 2013 ca. 12:30 p.m. Victoria Park

The park is surprisingly deserted for a summerlike day: a lone woman has left a bench across the concrete plaza around the cenotaph, hair a rich synthetic copper-chestnut, reading a hardback book as she strolls uncertainly forward.

The wide boulevard is an island in the flow of traffic. Lonsdale Avenue is the main stream off to my right: an insistent thrum of vehicles motoring up and down the hill. Almost steady.

The cenotaph itself is of concrete or stone, a mini–art deco skyscraper maybe 6 meters high, enclosed by low drooping lengths of chain hung between four black posts. Battles and wars are inscribed in sober black capitals on its lower faces. Visible from here: CAMBRAI, SOMME; KOREA 1950–1953; and, above that, a new addition: AFGHANISTAN 2001–2011 PEACEKEEPING. The rest of it is naked to the top, ready for more war dead.

The many mature trees are all in young leaf: pairs of stately copper beeches flanking the paved walks to the cenotaph, trunks like great elephant legs; the green hands of chestnut leaves; the prim little leaves of decorous lindens.

Another woman has come and gone from the plaza, this one a dark-skinned Filipina, wearing heavy brown clothes and speaking her own language into a phone. Two teenage girls have arrived to toss a Frisbee on a sunny section of lawn, laughing and talking as they throw. A helicopter gargles somewhere unseen overhead. Gulls cry. A thin Asian teenage girl strides quickly through the plaza, entirely absorbed in manipulating her phone.

But now the plaza is empty again: half sunk in shade, a place that people mostly just pass through as they cross the park.

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