This is for every kid who ever prayed for rain in hopes it might cancel recess. Toxic Playgrounds The rusty chain-link fences which used to stand guard are gone, having given way to smallish men with egos the size of jungle gyms. Men anxious to once again assume their role as Kings of the Mountain. Gone are yesterday's weapons of intimidation: smear the queer, capture the ***, and rumors that spread faster than scotch broom and dandelions. Today's weapons of choice: titanium-tough trucks with screeching break mechanisms, tires meant for tractor-trailers, and of course an unquenchable, burning desire to again dominate recess. Within the hour someone will be crowned the "donut king," their prize a week of bragging rights and a half-rack of Lucky Lager. Left among their wake will be burning asphalt circles and the smoldering remnants of playground wars played out on battlefields known as recess. Look, and see the ghost children’s petitions of intercession rise up, move earth and crack asphalt in search of the stolen fruits of their childhoods. Fruits such as self-esteem, confidence, alignment, joy, laughter and contentment. Their cries do not come from fertile and fruit-bearing places but from toxic playgrounds. Playgrounds made toxic not by electrical currents flowing through overhead power lines nor by waters stagnating within underground wells deep below. These playgrounds are made toxic by the tongues of venomous children and the silenced tongues of those charged to stand guard but unwilling to protect. Listen, listen closely and you will hear the cries of ghost children, still haunted by the painful sing-alongs of their youth: Ching Chong China Man, sitting on a fence, trying to make a dollar out of ninety-nine cents. Fatty Fatty two-by-four can't get through the kitchen door. Jimmy crack corn and I don't care, Jimmy crack corn and I don't care—my master's gone away. Touch, and feel the ghost children's battered and broken grave markers, their given names faintly visible beneath the etchings upon etchings of poisonous names, doled out to those unlucky enough to live in sunny states or fend for themselves during recess: ***, sissy, ******, dyke, spick, gook, kike, chink, poor white trash, ****, ****, retard. The rusty chain-link fences which used to stand guard are gone, having given way to you who choose to stand guard, restore broken headstones and make smooth the cracked and burning asphalt. And, I—I who press ear to asphalt while listening for voices—voices of children seeking fertile and fruit-bearing places. Upon hearing their call, I will seed the clouds with psalms of warning. My verse simple yet true: run, children, run —you are in danger. These are not fertile and fruit-bearing places. These are still toxic playgrounds, made toxic not by the electrical currents flowing through overhead power lines nor the waters stagnating within underground wells, but by the tongues of venomous children and the silenced tongues of those assigned to stand guard but unwilling to protect. So fly, children, fly up, up and away and dance among the powerlines—you will be much safer there. So, dive, children, dive down, down and away and swim within the underground wells—you will be safer there. Because rainy days don't always cancel recess, and the smell of burning asphalt always seems to linger longer than a childhood search for fertile and fruit-bearing places.