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

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

Growing, Uninvited by Chima “Naira” Ikoro

I grew up in a single story home with a big basement and a broken doorbell 
in a neighborhood where my dad wasn’t allowed to sell ice cream 
when he first came to this country. 
The doorbell broke a long-long time ago and just never got fixed. 
We weren’t the type to receive unexpected company, if you were on the way we already knew 
so it was fine. 
Here, he would tend the grass and replace the flowers as if required by law,
says “in a place like this, your neighbors will notice if your property isn’t well kept.” 
I only saw the marigolds and hydrangea bushes for what they were; 
decoration. 
shrubbery to hide in or feel protected by or disguised by. 
My mom, twisting her larynx to sound more normal
when she asks my neighbors how they’re doing, 

There was this rosebush under my bedroom window growing in the wrong spot. 
No matter how many times my dad cut it down 
it kept growing back. 
Isn’t there a poem somewhere in here? 
My parents, standing at this country’s front door, the doorbell defunct 
not waiting for or wanting any visitors, 
still multiplying despite missing eviction by a single thorn every month 
for years. 
My dad was at the library when my mom went into labor 
Who could be mad? 
A man who’s parents could not read or write, missing the birth of a daughter 
who would grow up to multiply her words into weapons that could not be pruned or tended 
or cut down. 
I also learned to twist my voice when I’m at our house— 
Instead, I do it to sound more like our home. 

Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. SOCIAL MEDIA: @supernaira (Twitter), @naira.bills @chandrikah.rukh (Instagram)

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Prompt

“Who, what, or where tethers you to the most important parts of your identity?” 

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.

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Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt. The last poem and prompt can be found here

I wear my unibrow for spiritual hygiene (for all intents & purposes)
by Chandrikah Rukh 

And while it cannot be cited as fake news that my tweezers surrendered 3 years ago, gave up
on plucking the newly sprouted weeds every morning, gave up on my low pain tolerance at 16
when mom dragged me to the aunties on Devon so they could burn my forehead with threads
& pleas to stay still in a language I’ll never know. This is less about hair, less about pain
translating into beauty, and more about why I was born with a natural third eye activator living
permanently on my forehead. Perhaps I was always destined for greater things, carrying the
bridge between this world and the unknown (on my face of all places). I didn’t want my
mustache to get lonely either. Not having a unibrow scientifically is a genetic defect. It means
you’re prone to sweat forever dripping into your mouth. When God birthed you with one brow,
it means you arrived into this world complete, not partitioned, not broken into two. You are the
constant, the anchor, the one who cannot be separated from yourself because you were born
with a body carrying a bridge where everyone else draws a border.

Invasive species
by Chandrikah Rukh 

(the most common tree found growing in Chicago, ‘european buckthorn’, is not
indigenous to the land that births it)

In Chicago they purposely plant trees
Shallow so they never reach
Their full height, never get to bury
Their roots completely

In my dream even the oxygen feels sad
The trees insecure, knowing
The birds will not create nests on their bones
They are prone to be uprooted
Easily

They decide their roots must be legs
Must be mode of transportation
I am on the train and there are so many leaves falling
Thick thighs of trunk and every root an extra toe

Bound to nothing
Bound to no one
Yet every land
Every soil
Every piece of this earth
Somehow, theirs
Somehow, still warm

Can never be cut down
If I keep my roots on me
If every mountain of dirt is singing my name
And every gust of wind scatters our ashes
In a different direction

I am bound to no one

No land is mine

I am bound to nothing

Still, every corner of this universe
I have pulled you in
Left you a breath at least
There is a map of your mouth
Stuck on a branch
Falling somewhere, everywhere
A part of me is still exhaling

Chandrikah is a spoken word comedian and herbalist from Chicago.

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