I’ve been told that way back in the 40’s
our Rosenwald complex was a black pearl
on Chicago’s South Side during the
blues, jazz, and soul renaissance.
It sheltered greats like
Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, Quincy Jones
– girl, I said Quincy Jones!
I think even Miles Davis
and Sammy Davis Jr,
but no relation, I believe.
I’ve been told that black folks in Chi
strutted down gaslit 47th street,
danced on smokey Michigan Boulevard,
sang on King Drive, and even Wabash
like they owned the night;
with a sense of pride
and musicality befitting us,
inseparable from the music
spilling from every throbbing tavern,
and even “hole-in-the-wall” was
just a teasing nickname thrown
at friendly endearing faces.
If I squint, I can see gilded hallways
of way back when,
which reek of pungent piss now.
I observe the sheen of polish
on some of the tiles not defiled
by dual-pitchforked, Star-of-David
Gangster-Disciple gang-sign graffiti.
Or is it Gangsta? I try to discern
the artist’s penmanship from
the ones in our high school instead of
meeting your desperate gaze
as you kneel before me,
taking my hands in yours
in a shameful proposal.
Just yesterday, I’d given up on you.
I’d no tears left to cry over a girl
who don’t want me no more.
Now you return, on your knees,
perfumed in Bacardi rum and weed
you never thought to share with me.
What am I to make of this?
You didn’t even respect me enough
to break up with me;
you ignored my pleas
until I got the message.
Now you want to rewind the clock?
Any boy with a good upbringing
and a residue of self-respect
would’ve slammed that heavy
security door in your face for good,
chaining, deadbolting, and security-pole
in place for all eternity.
Sadly, this building
has seen better days,
better than I can imagine.
He spurned you as you betrayed me,
you humbled yourself after falling,
and try as I might, I just couldn’t
kick you while down on that musty-ass floor.
I lifted you from your knees,
welcoming you back into my
self-loathing and desperation,
knowing that I could expect no better.
I walked you home around the corner,
across the dusty courtyard
that once held fresh, manicured grass
when we first moved in.
I held your hand in mine,
thinking that to love you
went hand-in-hand with my
needing you somehow;
that without your water,
my life was empty, dead,
dusty-brown, a rusted, rotten
swing-set without swings;
only tetanus would remain,
waiting for antitoxin or
and abandonment, twenty years from now,
long after our ill-advised marriage cracked,
eroded and ended; long after you
kneeled before me once again,
begging me to hold up my end
of our sham, a plea met with
silence and emptiness, like
the decayed ruins we once called home some
thirty years and two-thousand sixty-four
miles ago, before its renovation
into an elderly citizen’s home,
which is fitting, for all things age, slow,
decay, and are eventually consumed
by silence; even music
– the most beautiful, the most vibrant;
– the most soulful, the most mournful
is fleeting, and always ends,
making way for the next,
as star becoming nebula
becomes proto stars.
I hope whoever walks
that hallway now
smells only lavender.
NaPoWriMo Day 2: “…write a poem about a specific place — a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there.”
I tried to be descriptive, but I was eventually sucked into the narrative. I may try this one again after this month’s challenge ends.