after “Chicago” by Carl Sandberg
Pre-teen pot smokers raised into
hard drug dealers.
Skinny, white, trailer-trash girls
with lips rings,
and dexterous dope addicts
turning tricks into hold ups
on sex-starved naval officers
in a seedy motel six.
Alyssa’s mugshot from last week
is the first time I’ve seen her face
since our high school yearbook.
Before her, it was Bret in the fall
found overdosed on oxy,
passed out and picked up
by police in the Taco Bell
Before him, it was Coolidge
getting nabbed for carrying
and bragging on how big he felt
for brandishing a weapon
on his walk home from nowhere.
Before him, it was Cassidy getting pregnant
after a summer of binging and blow jobs.
They told me I’d hate you,
That I would despise your kind.
Your sharp tongues, your rough crowds,
Your ways, your words,
Your hard drugs, hard people.
after all these years they tell me
that you were born to be black and brutal.
And my reply is: yes, you are
tough to love but I still do.
So I ask them,
come and show me another place
where Friday night football games
are a consecutive failure
but the band is always loud and cheering,
the stands always filled by the families
that formed in-between
fights, deals, and deaths,
within teams, clubs, and classrooms
because parents were never in the picture.
Show me another town that knows
how to look out for each other
the way that we do.
Bareheaded boys rolling blunts
with precision in the pitch dark,
Shoveling aside the shit
their parents left inside of them.
Wrecking dirt bikes on rails to trails.
Planning escape routes on the cliffs,
keeping warm with fireball and burnetts.
Building themselves up and out
by the cash they hole up
in their track pant pockets.
Breaking down for the tenth time
when they’re told they won’t make it.
Rebuilding the hope, the bullies
tried to brand out of them.
They tell me you are past all repair.
That you are a lost cause,
a waste of my white, privileged time,
A worthless relic I should leave behind.
But I can’t help but believe
that one day you will get better.
The sound of your stormy, husky, brawling,
laughter lifts me out of your ashes.
Your sloppy joy, your scrubby hospitality.
Your wild embraces, your full faces,
Your hand-picked families
have taught me how to be strong.
How to be loyal in my loving,
liberal in my kindness.
Lessons, I never could have
learned without you.
By Julia Bonadies
Julia Bonadies teaches English Language Arts at Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle, and tutors in writing at Manchester Community College. In 2016, she was named Manchester Community College’s poet representative in the Connecticut Poetry Circuit. Her poetry has appeared in the national undergraduate magazine, The Albion Review, local paper The Chronicle, and various online journals and local college literary arts magazines. She is a film and plant enthusiast who resides in Vernon, Connecticut.