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Photo Essay: Hidden city

Life without shelter on the Arkansas River

Diablo sits in a park along the banks of the Arkansas River.

Experiences run deep for those living on the streets along the Arkansas River. This life on the margins gives you the ability to—not turn invisible—but slide out of view in the eyes of your fellow city dwellers, many of whom don’t realize you’re gone, or that you were ever with them at all. You won’t be as much as a memory in their consciousness, but you’ll be given a secret vantage to see and hear everything around you.

The Arkansas River is a new name. The River Jordan is older, and more accurate for some in the city who know the water intimately. These people say there’s a war going on between heaven and hell, and the river is often the frontline.

“There is a battle coming to Tulsa,” one woman says. “I don’t know why the Devil chose this place to come to. I suppose it’s because God chose 
it first.” 

There is a spot, a known drop-off point along the river banks for transport boats that carry angels to the city for fighting. But territory is lost and gained in this war, and sometimes the drop point is taken by the enemy—the Devil himself—and he brings demons to bear along the river. 

The boats are neutral carriers. They are as unmoved as the River or the Land itself, and they bring forces of good and bad in the spiritual realm just as the streets—the neutral carrier of human bodies—bring the same. All roads lead to this hidden city. All streets are inhabited here. The lives lived here score the land. They keep eyes on the river and watch over each other, neighbors in a forgotten community. 

“It’s hard out here.” 

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