with lines from Carl Sandburg's "Chicago"
South Side. West Side.
They tell me you are wicked. Your alleys
are but whispers of concrete. Quiet. Thinned
of footsteps like gin with no kick.
echoes of child's play inside tiny
metal shells. The fragrance
of a firework. Yes, it is true I have seen
the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And along those aforementioned strips
of silence, confetti: grocery store circulars.
Lottery tickets, halved and quartered.
McDonald's wrappers. And yes, on the faces
of women and children I have
seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And I've seen chicken bones.
Snake-eyed die. Cigarettes
and blunts, stomped out like
a black body, somewhere, someone,
laughing with white teeth.
Behind the houses, liquor bottles,
finely crushed into gravel by the turning
wheels of Cadillacs,
like stars, glinting through clouds
of dust and ash.
Ash knows knuckle biblically here.
The fists they breed carry
easily into blowing winds
laughing the stormy, husky, brawling
laughter of youth.
There's a door knocked for every
head knocked; bad news
buoyed in the breeze,
and still, somehow, love.
Cortney Lamar Charleston was raised in the Chicago suburbs by two South Siders, but currently lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and its premier performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project. He is also a founder and editorial lead for BLACK PANTONE
, an inclusive digital cataloging of black identity. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Lunch Ticket
, Specter Magazine
, Kinfolks Quarterly
, Bird's Thumb
, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
, among others.
more by Cortney Lamar Charleston:
Still Life with Skateboarding Rapper Orbited by Nerd Paraphernalia
Still Life with Light-Skinned Rapper Wearing Newsboy Cap