Essays | Lit

The Weight of the Word

An excerpt from "Revise the Psalm: Work Inspired by the Writings of Gwendolyn Brooks"

Revise the Psalm: Work Inspired by the Writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Sandra Jackson-Opoku will be published by Curbside Splendor in January 2017.

Essays | Lit Issue

A Perfect Little Girl

A story by Stephen English

She was a perfect little girl, or so she tried. Her mother always told her she had dreamed of two daughters but her firstborn was a son. Her mother could only afford two children on her husband’s factory-worker salary. SHE was born. Her second child was her hope. Her fantasized daughter became her mother’s ears and constant companion. Folks told the girl she was going to be a fine little wife. She swept the floor in compliance. In the time and town where she grew up “feminism” was an unknown word. It probably would have been thought to be a medical condition to be treated by a gynecologist, a male gynecologist.



Amelia Dmowska

My winter boots are soaked in gold; my toes tingle as I dip them into the puddle of light that pours from the lamp above. Miniature suns in golden boxes bob over the wooden boards of the “L” station—artificial suns whose heat sizzles in the cold. Mud and ice are caked into a trimming that borders the planks of the station, lining the edges of the benches and seeping into the crevices between the train tracks. It hasn’t snowed for a few days, but the gray afternoon clouds above are heavy, expectant reminders that the real sun hasn’t colored the light for a week or two.


Jones Commercial, My First Job, and a Whole New World Outside of Englewood

Courtesy of the Author

My first venture into the workforce in 1972 was as a secretary for the City of Chicago, Department of Water and Sewers. I was offered this job during my senior year at Jones, as all seniors had to work a half day. When I started working for the City, my father helped me in the only way he knew how. It was normally my mother to whom we went for advice, sometimes to just talk things out. But I remember before I started my job at City Hall he told me to say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir,” when I was addressing the white people downtown. When my father advised me to show deference to the white people with whom I would come into contact with at my first job, the first thing that he was referring to was that old Southern, colored idea of inferiority that he believed I should consider when dealing with white people. In that moment, it struck me that no matter how cute or smart I thought I was, wearing my nice little dresses and stockings and shoes, plopping on a nice hat and pulling on gloves, my father thought that I still had to make sure I kept my place and didn’t disrespect the white people downtown.


Mommy Was a Stripper

Lexi Drexelius

The day had come. I was officially a man with the arrival of my bouncing baby boy. I planned on becoming the flawless all-American Sears dad dripping testosterone laced sweat like the Marlboro man. I had read all the books on single parenting, rearing disabled children, and Terry Brazelton’s volumes on child development. I wasn’t about to make any mistakes.


The Format has Changed

Thumy Phan

My neighborhood used to be 70’s top 40 with a splash of jazz. The streets once buzzed with haunting bohemian melodies. The spirit of progress was its heartbeat. A mix of races, backgrounds, and incomes comprised the lyrics. The college town energy made you feel anything; everything was possible walking along the hubbub of 53rd Street. Bestselling hardcover books stood proudly on tables, upright, spines unbroken at Kroch’s and Brentano’s.



Irene Pocius (1922-2014) Courtesy of the Author

I was born and raised in Bridgeport: a dirty, industrial, polluted mess of a neighborhood. Located on the near-South Side of Chicago, under a scrambled mess of highway infrastructure, one will find ailing nineteenth century housing stock, a ravaged, beat-up business strip that’s still home to immigrants arriving from wherever, ready to stake their claim in this American life. These hardscrabble streets are not charmed, but are filled with hope. My mom lived and died there, and still I walk these streets.


Shel Silverstein

Dmitry Samarov

Everything’s wrong,
Days are too long,
Sunshine’s too hot,
Wind is too strong.
Clouds are too fluffy,
Grass is too green,
Ground is too dusty,
Sheets are too clean.
Stars are too twinkly,
Moon is too high,
Water’s too drippy,
Sand is too dry.
Rocks are too heavy,
Feathers too light,
Kids are too noisy,
Shoes are too tight.
Folks are too happy,
Singin’ their songs.
Why can’t they see it?
Everything’s wrong!