x

when i say Chicago

From Nate Marshall's Collection, Finna

August 11, 2020  By Nate Marshall
0


capital city of the flyover.
crown jewel of the jailhouse.
a town in love with its own blood,
a blood browned on its own history & funk.
hometown of the riot & the riot gear,
the gang & the loitering law.
misfit blocks of dark-skinned cousins &
thick knuckled slavic uncles
who call each other their worst names.

what this country know ’bout a rustbelt
dipped in salt & vinegar & sold as
marked up & rustic?

my city is the city.
not your close enough suburb not
subject to the suppression of tape
& the tapping of phones.
how can you say anything about our blocks
& schools & children that you refuse to see.
don’t tell us what is wrong
with all of our cousins you’ve never known.
you do not govern what you do not love.

when i say Chicago
i mean that first Haitian cat who could pronounce it right.

when i say Chicago
i mean the stopped & frisked.
i mean the euphemism of frisk.
i mean the beat down & tight cuff.
i mean the drop-off in Bridgeport
or Mount Greenwood.
i mean the lessons
taught to an uppity one.

when i say Chicago
i mean the lake
(& i mean all of it).
i mean the candy lady at Rainbow
& the paleta man at Calumet
& the kids careening across the green at Montrose
& the jogger in midwinter daring a death for fitness

when i say Chicago
i mean Cabrini & Stateway & Ickes & Ida,
the city i’ll tell my kids about in the past tense.
i mean the rents that sometimes
make me mean Georgia or Indiana or Dolton.

when i say Chicago i mean
the restaurants with no chairs
just a window, a bulletproof sneeze guard.
i mean a Michelin star for all the ethnics slanging
their seasoned meats & language.

when i say Chicago i mean my mama’s house
that was my grandma’s house.

i mean the neighborhood
that was our neighborhood
because we said
we’ll make a home here
& we’ll stay.

__________________________________

From the book Finna by Nate Marshall. Copyright © 2020 by Nathaniel A. Marshall. Published by One World, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All Rights Reserved.




Nate Marshall
Nate Marshall
Nate Marshall is an award-winning writer, rapper, educator, and editor. He is the author and editor of numerous works including Wild Hundreds and The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. Nate is a member of The Dark Noise Collective and co-directs Crescendo Literary. He is an assistant professor of English at Colorado College. He is from the South Side of Chicago.








More Story
Charlotte Wood on the Subconscious Act of Writing This first appeared in Lit Hub’s Craft of Writing newsletter—sign up here. A small, wild stray cat approaches two houses...