I rode by the property several times—enough to probably make neighbors in the oak tree lined community think I was casing somebody’s home. One of the first impressions I had of Mandarin is an adjective. Sturdy. The community is family oriented, yet there is diversity in abundance. When I first moved here, I wrote about taking my cleaning to a fellow from Bulgaria (his wife had a CD of lively wedding music playing) and then ordering a sandwich from a gentlemen from India who owns a deli here. I’ve covered stories for freelance clients about refugees from dozens of countries who come to the U.S. legally to escape persecution. My life is enriched immeasurably by living here.
The community manifests universal hopes—regardless of our country of origin, we all want safety, education and health for our children. We want a community that we feel part of. The community has anchored Northeast Florida residents for many years. And with my poem I hoped to put the listener in touch with what that means. The place became the poem.
It wasn’t hard to love Mandarin. It was very hard to express that in a poem that wouldn’t be trashed by academics. I hope I succeeded. I’ll know tomorrow, after reading it during the dedication.
The public is invited to the Billard Park and Veterans Memorial dedication ceremony Wednesday, November 14, at 4 p.m. at the park located at 11641 Brady Road in Jacksonville.