Octavio Ruiz Cervera CC
Lament for the South Side
For decades I have tried to forget the The South Side of Chicago. I am tired of all the hackneyed cliches—the White Sox baseball team, black leather clad tough guys pitching pennies on schoolyard pavements, shot-and-a-beer corner taverns. I am tired of the isolation I felt deep in my gut while reading my books and listening to classical music. For years I tried to break out of the racial and ethnic and religious insularity that stymied my childhood as I’ve passed through viaduct passageways to other neighborhoods, breaching borders to what feels like other countries. Yet here I am.
I try to forget the Chicago River, the south branch Bubbly Creek, even though I smell the rot and stench from Stockyards blood and offal dumped there for decades. I try to forget squawking seagulls, cackling crows and grackles, cooing pigeons that weigh down sun-starved trees on all the streets and avenues. I hear them day and night, like newscasts of the Daleys senior and junior stuck on an endless loop.
My heart quakes at the memory of those unforgiving concrete streets. The images and shrieks of lacquer-haired baby boomer bubblegum-chewing girls still drown out the traffic noises on Wallace Avenue, and the biting winds off Lake Michigan still knife through my arms and legs.
Fifty years later my memories still sleep in the Bridgeport neighborhood, dream there, leap from mind to page though long hidden by, obscured by, and dirtied by clouds of gray car exhaust. Even though the dirty-face moon strains through the street lights and cannot guide the way, my stories and poems still steer me off the 35th Street ramp of the Dan Ryan expressway, back to Union Avenue, to Halsted Street, Comiskey Park, to St John Nepomucene Catholic Church, the Ramova Theater.
The South Side inhabits the space between my eyes and brain like lost visions running through narrow gangways separating 2-flat apartment buildings. All of my words root me to those Arctic clippers of grief and anger, the stifled pains and passions without pity.
Frank C. Modica is a cancer survivor and retired teacher who taught children with special needs for over 34 years. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Beyond Words Literary Magazine, Blue Mountain Review, and Raconteur Review. Frank's first chapbook, “What We Harvest,” nominated for an Eric Hoffer book award, was published this past fall by Kelsay Books.
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