Engage & Learn

Checagou

Chicago is a Black woman that forgot her roots

She too much prairie to be anything pretty

Pressed perm into kinky pasture

Chemical burn runs

Mississippi deep

Sore in her scalp, but

Sun breaks through her mouth

and in her smile

There’s always mourning

She never sleeps

Stirs from disturbances in her dreams

Iron horses galloping down her ribs

Those metal bones

Creak to an exhausted stop atop the knots

Of an industrialized

Spine

Crawl like ants into the hills of her kneecaps

Wet whispers

Drip down the nape of her neck

Her headdress, adorned with beads of sweat

Europe done crept

Into her jaw again

She don’t talk much

The wind howls in Algonquin

Thickened with smoke

She smells like burnt skin

Sounds like a city

Scorching to its knees

Sirens wailing

Someone’s always running

Frantic feet pounding against a concrete womb

A constant kicking in her stomach

Never giving birth

No one makes it out alive

Or whole

Chicago is a battered wife baptizing her babies’ skulls beneath a Great Lake

Cleansing more of her sins

Than theirs

La Llorona is in the Midwest now

Canals gashed into her wrist

Her veins hue

The murky blues of Michigan water

Namesake rivers

Pigeons perched on her collarbones peck

At the withered sheet of skin stretched taut

Wanting to see if she bleeds

Like we do

Soothed wrinkles in a crumpled napkin

Her hands

Calloused

Quiet captors

She never asked to be spread that way

Shovels pierced into her hymen

Broke barriers

Built more of them

Transverse incisions tear her torso into separate territories

Separate town

Can be located on the same street

Segregation is a thin line between

Leavitt and Western

But sometimes

She can almost feel the birchbark canoes curve along her riverbend

Taste the red oak acorn on the back of her throat

Hear Checagou

She never sleeps

But looks like she’s been beauty resting

She got pothole dimples that sink tires

Ankles of men that stepped too close

She loves

Like her lungs are soft and giving out

A constant kicking in her stomach is all the pounding

Her heart wishes it could make

She loves

Like the green line racing from Cottage Grove beside sunrise

and violet-orange clouds

Like a subway emerging from a black tunnel into daylight

Sore in her scalp, but

Sun break through her mouth

And in her smile

There’s always morning

Kush Thompson is a Chicago Poet. At 17, she attends Wells Community Academy High School.