Thursday, March 31, 2011

The City

I step onto the train and find a seat
There are two other people in the car
Both men
One at each end
I make note of the nearest exit

A man starts to sing loudly
I can't understand the words
But his voice is strong and clear
I'm irritated and wish he would stop
I notice a Rosary in his hands
I realize that I was annoyed at his prayers

Trash-filled lots fly by below us
Glittering in the sunlight
How many broken bottles does it take
To make it sparkle so brilliantly?
I notice concrete under the grass and weeds
What used to be there?

A man catches my eye
His look is a little too friendly
I look away
I ignore his attempts to recapture my attention
I await my destination

The streets are bustling
Every person has their own purpose
Every face it's own story
I remember:
"If we saw people the way Jesus does,
we would all fall on our faces to worship God for His masterpieces"
The masterpieces move on
I never worshiped

The Red Cross is seeking donations
I ask for a website
Someone wants to pay me $10 to take a survey
I walk past
"Streetwise! Streetwise!"
I turn around and the woman has already moved on
She assumed I didn't care
She holds my coke as I dig into my purse
I barely have the $2 to buy her newspaper
I wonder if the exchange gave her dignity

The platform for my train home is crowded
People with suitcases look lost as they try to find O'Hare
I gawk at a girl
Her stone-washed jeans and neon-striped high tops are startling
I've read all of the ads already
The train is taking forever to arrive

I settle into my seat
I unwrap my lunch
A recording reminds me that eating is prohibited
The train roars as we emerge from the tunnel

A young girl cautiously enters the train
Under her arm is a cap and gown
Graduation is awaiting her
Will she stay?
Did she fall in love with our city too?
Or did she just endure it until she could leave?

Some people are reading or listening to music
Some are sleeping
Others stare out the windows
Their faces show the weariness of life
One man looks as if he is dreading his destination
"Doors open on the left at Western"

The cars on the freeway are passing our train
We go through a tunnel
On the other side of it is the end of the city
It bids us farewell with a tent
Ripped and strung between a fence and a tree
The man who lives there is panhandling on the street below
I shiver at how cold his nights must be

Did you read that?
It bears repeating
There is a man who lives in a ripped tent
In Chicago
In March
And January
And July
And all of the other months

The city I love
Magnifies my hypocrisy
Amuses me
Arouses my curiosity
Captures my adoration
Breaks my heart


  1. Hmmm...thanks for re-posting. But what can we do? How can we a real way? There are shelters (non-sufficient, I'm sure). There is Obama Care. (I know, and a lot of people against it, but surely it is helping some part of the population? Please?) How do you think we can most effectively help? I gave a portion of our takeout dinner the other night to a woman who asked if I had leftovers as I carried my bag away from the restaurant. My kids cried that they had only one falafel but not the usual three. But hopefully she did not sleep hungry for another night...

  2. I posted my comment 2 years after your post. The problems remain at least the same...maybe worse.