“Poetry is life distilled” – Gwendolyn Brooks
From slam poetry to literary magazines, youth writing organizations to historic libraries, Chicago holds a rich poetry scene. There’s Louder Than a Bomb, The Poetry Foundation, Black Girl Magic, and Volumes Bookcafe. There’s weekly open mics, workshops, zine fests, and history. The above map highlights some of Chicago’s best spaces to find poetry, whether spoken, written or studied. The map is by no means extensive — but part of poetry’s splendor lies in its ability to be accessed — even created — anywhere.
Please Excuse your Timberlands
by Cheyenne Danforth
I walk with a sigh that wasn’t there before.
My arms brush against cold porous pavement,
begging it to take me in, absorb my body
like it does the offending droplets
that come and come, but never really go.
You think my mother held me at birth and thought,
This one is pretty enough to give me grandchildren.
As if you in my bed is what gives me meaning.
As if your hand on my thigh is why I went to college.
You’re not wrong, except when you are,
which is now and all the time—but like a true lady
I keep it in, because my strength is measured
by my ability to keep quiet.
I am the rain that seeps into the earth
unnoticed only until it caresses your foot
through steel-toed armor—or until
you want to drink it. As your lips
slip and curl with moisture,
the roots that I was meant for
decay beneath your absent mind,
housed by your undeserving skeleton.
Your phalanges flick themselves to warmth,
unaware that the ground has disconnected
from its roots—given away its soul
to keep you up.
in a dream i had
by April Lane
he was a black horse galloping through the desert in mid-summer. dehydrated, i might have borrowed a pair of hooves to help me gallop faster, but my skirt waved furiously in the wind, warning me to surrender. i swallowed my garment and ran naked after him as he raced me toward the pinhole in the sky. why is he so eager to disappear? he ran because he knew if i got close enough to touch the length of his tail, everything he loved would burn as an empty sacrifice: his sister’s first words, his grandmother’s left foot, a ring, a trophy, it would all dissolve. so he kept running.
and i kept chasing him. and my desire to chase him through the dusty sand and angry sun was reckless but came from a dangerous and tender and fleeting place. i felt the heat of a woman’s voice on the back of my neck, the breadth of her disappointment braided into the wind. you done lost your mind, chasin’ around some horse in the desert. i slowed down, but kept my eyes on his figure galloping toward the high mountains. i wish you had lost your mind a little more. The dimming sky cleared its throat and pearls dropped from its gaping mouth and liquefied the sand, making me slip further and further underneath the earth. i ignored the pursed-lipped clouds and swam through the melted sand.
and i wondered how it was possible to be moving visibly forward while feeling the dependable weight of gravity pulling me back. the sand tugged the skirt out my throat and forced it back onto my body. what is it you’re trying to tell me? i watched his black body become enveloped by the yawn of a sandstorm. and he was gone. he did not belong to me. but each time i heard heavy hooves thud against the earth, i imagined him returning to save me from the sand that remained up to my neck. i wanted to hear all about the world he wanted so badly to become a part of. each time he reminded me that he saw nothing; each time i reminded myself that he never existed.
by Aiki Coxhead
splinter in my lip, soft under belly
cartilage hard parts a plate when i leave
grated daikon for duality
ceramic small smoke smell
skewered, stabbed, soaked, swallowed
, thighs ( momo ) with leek
heres where i like you today, a
yakitori under the street, a
place the heat can’t leave, a
yesterday today that i know you’re
how do you say (to you)
watashi wa nanideshou
Growing up was that
by Oriette D’Angelo
the bad girl of the story.
-María Emilia Cornejo
They told me not
that I could not grow up like that
being the bad girl of the story
the one who chose a sea for a window
not a toy
who chose the ground
not a screen
They told me that growing up was that
that I could not choose to live
with a mother and a storm
I had to choose a paradise
always like that
from the security of the balconies
They tell me not to
that I did not have to see how they did of mother
a rag doll
I had to grow up away
from the security of the memory
always like that
looking towards the floor like this
by Delia Van Praag
You do not know the things you do to me
I see your face everywhere I look
the flowers on my dresser
black cups of coffee
my packed pipe
It’s strange to think of someone so much
And hope and wish and hope and wish
You’re thinking of me back
You sent me a video of your dancing toes
They were painted gold
I want to kiss your feet