This is part of Jewschool’s poetry series on Lamentations for our modern cities and urban justice. You can find last year’s pieces by Adam Gottlieb, Stephanie Friedman, and Harold Jaffe here, here, and here. These poems were all authored for a grassroots Tisha B’Av service on Chicago’s South Side, co-sponsored by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Mishkan Chicago, and Tzedek Chicago.
Alas! Alone she sits, vacant lots, empty streets
Abandoned by companions, absent lovers to greet.
Bustling communities pushed out, in retreat
Bereft remnants blamed for their woes.
Chicago, its South and West Sides bursting once
With bronze pilgrims unCrowed seeking the warmth of other suns
Destined land great and treasured, built the country, sang blues.
Defender of all, made sure everyone knows.
Exodus now, of the Black population
Fallen 30% in just one generation
Fleeced by their captors, the city, the nation,
Gentrified by faux friends revealed to be foes.
Harassed and assaulted, defamed as gangbangers
Hypocrites! The real gang deserving of anger
Is the boys in blue, racists, policing with rancor,
With a contract that punishes one who whistle-blows.
Justified by lawyers, by ragsheets, and jurists,
When they perjure and further, brutalize the purest.
In Kahoots with, and serving the rich whites and tourists,
Streets emptying, they mock, ask why, where the Black man goes.
Leaders are liars, so brazen, no fear
Leeching, they preach for a budget austere
just down here, while the Marriott, Sara Lee, Navy Pier
Milk our TIFs to get rich, ours is froze.
but Obama! Sending a center, our neighborhoods to spark
Our organizer, Oval Office, friend, who’s from here, skin is dark
Pledges to transform Jackson into Lincoln Park
Put benefits in writing? Oh no, CBA they oppose.
Mr. Rahm ve-Nisa, Gadol ve-nora
Closes clinics and schools: Ein Beri’ut, Ein Torah.
Ruthless ruling by rip-off, he’s Sodom and Gomorrah
Real estate for the rich once our homes are foreclosed.
South Shore, soon, will rebrand, white South Coast of Gold.
Black and poor people shunned, sent empty-handed, to the cold.
Some men will rob you with a fountain pen, said a prophet of old.
Today’s thieves, while they rob you, make you smile for photos.
Trauma spread its hand over our person, our place,
People exiled when housing projects destroyed, not replaced.
Tormentors and traitors cashing in with all haste,
Ugly unctuous enemies, like friends though they pose.
University Vampires, suck resources they hoard behind a moat.
Union busters, they bluster: their own students dare not even vote.
With their occupier private cop gang so cutthroat.
Money sucked, bodies scattered, human blood, how it flows!
When someone tells you who they are, best believe them
Or You and I’ll find ourselves once again shocked and grieving.
We’re in this with Newark, Detroit, and with Cleveland.
Zion’s roads mourning, bulldozed, ruled by many Pharaohs.