Lamentation 2: 2016

This is part of Jewschool’s poetry series on Lamentations for our modern cities and urban justice. You can find here Harold Jaffe’s piece on chapter 4 and here Stephanie Friedman’s piece on chapter 5.
This poem is an adaptation of the second chapter of Eikha (Lamentations), which emphasizes the despoiling of the educational system in the desolate City. Poet Adam Gottlieb shared it at a Tisha B’Av reading on Chicago’s South Side, at which the full, Hebrew chanting of Eikha was interspersed with original elegies by local poets, unpacking the potent imagery of Eikha to the displacement, bloodshed, desolation, and abandonment, in our own city of Chicago, especially for its largely poor and largely Black and Brown South Side.
Lamentation 2: 2016
by Adam Gottlieb
America feeds on its children:
Bodies run through pipelines
Circulating the thinning blood of capital through the veins of Chicago,
Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, where
Factories closed long ago. In
Georgia, the Governor offers a New Deal to close 141 schools. In Chicago’s Bronzeville,
Hunger strikers go on diet, starving 34 days to keep one open.
Jerusalem has become the world.
          How the Lord has covered her with the cloud of his anger; (Lamentations 2:1)
Katrina cleaned up public housing and education in the Lower 9th Ward, according to
Representative Richard Baker: “We couldn’t do it, but God did.”
          Without pity the Lord has swallowed up all the dwellings; (2:2)
Lead water runs through fountains in 111 CPS schools. Flint keeps theirs running most of
the year. Children at home bathe and burn.
          He has poured out his wrath like fire; (2:4)
Mexico: 8 teachers killed by police at a protest, 3 years after the massacre in Ayotzinapa
where 43 disappeared.
          You have slaughtered them without pity; (2:17)
Noble Charter Schools make $200,000 in “disciplinary fees” alone,
           The Lord has done what he planned…
           he has let the enemy gloat over you,
           he has exalted the horn of your foes. (2:17)
Ohio families sleep tight, three generations foreclosed into one-bedroom homes. Relief
comes when brother joins the navy, leaving space on the bed.
          He has brought her kingdom and its princes down to the ground in dishonor. (2:2)
Pearson, “The World’s Leading Learning Company,” makes $911 million in profit.
          All your enemies open their mouths wide against you; (2:16)
Questions are allowed if their answers can be packaged and sold;
Rahm and Rauner point fingers at each other, holding hands behind their backs;
Security guards and police officers work full time in schools, nurses come in
once a week;
Turnaround” schools fire all teachers for younger, cheaper replacements;
University contingent professors join the ranks of the homeless;
Virginia: A mother is told there is no room in the shelter for her and her children,
ages 5, 3, and less than a year. They are given city bus tokens so they can ride
all night to stay warm.
          The Lord is like an enemy…
          He has multiplied mourning and lamentation… (2:5)
Wisconsin: School vouchers enforce segregation.
          Her king and her princes are exiled among the nations; (2:9)
Xenophobia infects families, schoolyards, police forces and border control officers
nationwide. Children are tormented, parents deported.
Young and old lie together in the dusts of the streets; (2:21)
Zero-tolerance policies reflect something larger:
         The Lord has rejected his altar
          and abandoned his sanctuary.
          He has given the walls of her palaces
          into the hands of the enemy; (2:7)
         What can I say for you?
               With what can I compare you…
         To what can I liken you,
              that I may comfort you…
          Your wound is as deep as the sea.
              Who can heal you? (2:13)
Adam Gottlieb is a poet/emcee, teaching-artist, musician and community organizer from Chicago. As a teen he was featured in the 2009 documentary film “Louder Than A Bomb,” about the world’s largest youth poetry slam festival by the same name. Since then, he has gone on to perform and teach widely throughout Chicago, the U.S., and even the world, working mostly with youth as a facilitator of safe spaces for creative expression and cultural community-building. In March 2014 he co-founded the Chicago chapter of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade. He leads a band, “Adam Gottlieb & OneLove,” that plays his original songs. He is also a regular contributor of both poetry and articles to the People’s Tribune.

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