1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
  6. The Exchange: Her.
  7. The Exchange: Lint
  8. The Exchange: Reality Check
  9. The Exchange: Caution
  10. The Exchange: Rubik’s Cube
  11. The Exchange: The Path
  12. The Exchange: sTREEtS
  13. The Exchange: Butter
  14. The Exchange: The Bright Side
  15. The Exchange: Concrete to Shoreline
  16. This Empty Cage
  17. Paper Machete
  18. The Exchange: Marketplace
  19. The Exchange: One Year Anniversary
  20. The Exchange: Sunscreen Affective Disorder (SAD) 
  21. The Exchange: Immigration & Culture
  22. The Exchange: Love, Street Cleaning, & Other Myths

This section publishes creative writing submissions from the public that do not necessarily reflect the views of the South Side Weekly or its editors.

The Exchange is the Weekly’s poetry corner, where a poem or piece of writing is presented with a prompt. Readers are welcome to respond to the prompt with original poems, and pieces may be featured in the next issue of the Weekly.

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Butter
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro

you could wake up one morning and realize the most life-changing thing ever;
you are out of butter.
your spouse tells you that they’ll pick some up on their way back from work but you’ve retired
and you’re having a lazy morning anyway so
you need a task to keep you from collecting dust
when you settle back in
and get back to those tomatoes growing slow and steady
or the strange show your grandchild insists you watch—
you wanna go get the butter yourself.
so you brush your teeth,
press the silver lining that sits on your crown
into your favorite shape,
a jacket, for the windchill.
a piece of gum, in case there’s traffic.
whatever soft and folding thing your money is in.
you drive to the
grocery store.
it’s so funny, you swear,
every time you go to the store for one thing you leave with 10.
then a man in the parking lot

offers to give you his cart.
you say no thanks,
grab a basket this time instead, don’t wanna set yourself up
for failure.
and when you’re picking out cereal
your favorite stocker comes and ducks next to you 

to put granola on the bottom shelf.
you call her by her name, ask her how her day’s going.
it’s going. normal. today is just a regular slice of life.
then man walks into the aisle,

he asks where the cream cheese is, she says it’s in aisle duh-duh-duh near the butter
and you remember that you came here
for butter.
so you put the cereal in your basket
and you walk down and grab
a four pack of sweet cream unsalted butter
and you make it to the checkout line,
pat yourself on the back for not lollygagging for as long as you normally do
and then

you realize what was so life changing about this butter
when you reach out to pay.
a man walks into the store.

among his many grievances, he has a toothache.
and you are standing right at the register, as brown as your wallet. you have card and cash.
he decides you need to pay for it with
your life.

Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about segregation in Chicago.

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Prompt

“How do you stay afloat amidst the storms and waves?”

This could be a poem or a stream-of-consciousness piece. Submissions could be new or formerly written pieces. 

Submissions can be sent to bit.ly/ssw-exchange or via email to chima.ikoro@southsideweekly.com.

Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt.

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Break up
by Justin Dismuke

She loiters
around the house like dust
hides from me under covers
cuddles baggage
full of razor sharp memories
bitter as lemon peals 

The heat of her silence is stifling
our frigid conversation
condenses mist in her eyes
stranded in the volatile
space between us

It’s not you
It’s me

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