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
  23. The Exchange: An Accent Enters a Room and Says Good Morning
  24. The Exchange: An ode to Oceania
  25. The Exchange: Happy New Year
  26. The Exchange: NEW GROOVE/LODESTAR
  27. The Exchange: Wolves, Strides, and Landslides
  28. The Exchange: Honest Haikus
  29. The Exchange: Foreheads, Haikus and More
  30. The Exchange: Softness, Water Bottles, and Movie Theaters
  31. The Exchange: Algae and Understanding
  32. The Exchange: we like it here!
  33. The Exchange: tag & waiting
  34. The Exchange: spare
  35. The Exchange: Marketplace
  36. The Exchange: some coffee
  37. The Exchange: A Scary Story
  38. The Exchange: Consumer Report
  39. The Exchange: Affirmations and Sunflowers
  40. The Exchange: Autopay and A Fast Summer
  41. The Exchange: Squirrels and The White
  42. The Exchange: The Taj Mahal and Rutina de Sueño
  43. The Exchange: The Garden
  44. The Exchange: Jess Taught Me My Body Is Trying Its Best
  45. The Exchange: Jollof Rice and Losing it
  46. The Rotation
  47. The Exchange: Definitely late, but here, and Doubt

The Exchange is the Weekly’s new 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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To Our Flags

After “Meditations in an Emergency” (titled after Frank O’Hara) by Cameron Awkward-Rich

the first time i got pepper sprayed at point blank,
i pretend We all on the ground praying,
hoping a medic will spot Us—We’re waving our bandanas
in the air like flags…
i pledge my allegiance to that paisley,
stained and covered in sweat.
some people open their eyes in the morning and just live;
i clench my teeth while i sleep
grinding in between my dreams 

i wake up and it breaks my heart
the flight of children and doves all the same,
the city of tents on spikes so the unhoused can stay restless
women hawking roses for graves, all of them break my heart. 

who needs hallucinogens when you could get a concussion
free of charge? if you pretend.
in reality, a slice of my paycheck pays for all this rah rah shit—
all this riot gear
you know what’s cheaper than a police officer?
a Percocet.
but everyone’s on the front line and We’re sober,
getting our asses beat for the low cost of 1.8 billion dollars a year.
and the sanitary workers that clean our blood up off the sidewalks need a raise;
i pledge my allegiance to them niggas too,
but back to my troops.
who you know could get caught with their empty hands up
and still get a 21-gun-salute?
and the whole world will say their name and never even know what it means.
and strangers will tag their praises on to walls
that get painted over in neighborhoods where niggas like that use to live.

when a cop dies,
the whole neighborhood stops. the funeral procession is a long parade
of police cars and fire trucks.
my soldiers deserve the same energy. so
We organize and stop the whole neighborhood, too.
and the cops gone show up whether they’re invited or
We got fire trucks, paddy wagons, jail buses
and fuck it garbage trucks too.
when washington park got hit by the blizzard this year wasn’t a damn salt truck in sight,
but they at this protest though.
hell! have the mayor come out and speak a few words,
so she can get stomped into the earth where our soldiers been laid.
some of Us really know what dirt taste like;
that’s what it takes to be a soldier. or so it seems.
and i pledge my allegiance to each and every one of Y’all.
“hand on my heart
hand on my stupid heart.” 

Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about Juneteenth becoming a recognized federal holiday.

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Prompt: “How have the ‘powers that be’ failed the person next to you?”

“Powers that be” could be educational systems, lawmakers, governing bodies, or anything you consider an institution of power. 

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

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