Lizzie Smith

My Chicago be grid-mapped
Superman up high spot train car lines
Like speeding bullet through cityscape
Ahhh, What a sweet escape
Fall asleep on one side blue/red
Wake up black/white
Always knew red line split city black/white
Never took issue with this until nightfall
Better be on your side by nightfall
But nevermind that

CTA, the great equalizer
Rich Dad, Poor Dad collide here
Rush Hour, jam packed
Personal space now mythic past
All aboard the mystery machine
Used to ride for hours just to Christopher Columbus neighbor-nooks unseen
My scope widened every time I’d board a new line

Why we be sectioned off, bracketed,
Rather than just one Line
Thoughts swirl as I read billboard signs
Talkin bout, “ Building a New Chicago”
But I ain’t seen nothin new on my side

CTA reek of hope and despair
Cloaked in stale loose cigarette smoke and school children’s candy wrappers
This be Chicago feature, Chicago future
Joy ride on buses
Joy still be here
Love still be here

Bucket Boys wrists’ ricochet heartbeats off the air
Their wooden staffs split traffic like red sea
Come see my cityscape dream
Youth Ready, witness their glistening eyes gleam
Access, if they get it
Believe me, they got it
Open these unmarked borders
Listen to these kids kidding around
Can you hear them skipping the dozens over turnstiles?

We fashion them complacent
But they be curious
Wanna see what’s on the other side
Was far into my highschool years before I frequented the northern sector of Lake Shore Drive
But why is that?
When the city has always been mine
Or has it?
Why those from suburbs arrive downtown faster than us from the southside?

This be my city
My city plan
Before I take flight, I sit perched on this land
Chicago, there’s still time to do right by me
Since before the Great Migration,
Legends of the fall have been yearning to be free
Don’t trap us, don’t clip our wings
Just to stealthily set up shop where we be quarantined
Gentrification is real. We’re losing ground.
Redline from 95th be expanding but you displace us now
Then place your station inside our station
We be over-policed like long lines marching towards the county

We’re counting on this system collapsing and beginning anew
Empathize with us
On your feet place our shoes
What if your children were kept out of the Loop?
We deserve more than just a day at the Taste or Lollapalooza
We are not this city’s disposable income
This city’s scapegoat
We only wish to roam.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Tarnynon (Ty-yuh-nuh) Onumonu is a writer and performance artist from the Jeffery Manor neighborhood on the Southeast side of Chicago. She is a member of the Lethal Poetry Team, which will represent Chicago in the 2018 National Poetry Slam.

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1 Comment

  1. Im Chicago born, and though I left, I find that I am Chicago bred as well. Only right that I come full circle as I make tracks into greatness.
    I am seeing my city growing and through our hopes and paths to greatest, we shall build the South Side as well.
    The Phoenix has been found, and it resides within us…
    Obey your calling… Rise above oppression…

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