Requiem (a solemn mass for the dead)

By Devon Terrell

I heard the stories
I seen the pictures
of these monoliths
erected out the ash
of the depression
hanging like wind chimes in the sky
amongst the Goliath
there was David

Image credit: Dave Loewenstein

emerald blanket of grass
sparrows concert from the perennials
swings, jungle gyms, seasaws
I wasn’t born then
but I imagine a time
a condition better than
the ones I experienced

I imagine a haven
the aroma of fried chicken,
fish or soul food dish
escapes the kitchen
filling the corridors
Ella the Duke, Muddy and Billie
are enjoyed by an audience
as if they performed live

children run up and down the halls
tiny fists filled
with dimes, nickels, pennies
giggles chase their fix
to the apartment candy store

detergent scented laundry
lie on clothes lines
no need for a dryer
there’s a cool breeze lakeside
and opposite
Dan Ryan races through
leaving a draft

I imagine a fabric
of family units woven
stitched and hemmed
I’m speaking of a time
before the seams began to unravel

before cardio workouts
due to inoperable freights
before blacked out staircases
where the menace lurks
before the invasion
of roaches and rodents
before the stench of
incinerated decay
an airborne toxic event
that plagued the demograph

ball teams singing groups dance crews
infused with the riffraff that
fractured then broke
fractions produced factions
cliques split and clicked
they organized then bang
they banged

before plywood checkered windows
and soot strained brick
before piss and vomit
stained that brick
before spray paint
stained that brick
bullets that missed chipped
and put holes in that brick
but bullets that hit
blood stained brick

if those cinderblock walls
could talk they’d weep
and wail they’d scream
if those cinderblock walls
could talk you’d stop your ears
and beg please
don’t share those tales
don’t want to hear
about the walking dead
consuming the late hour
the cocaine rockin
heroin skin poppin affliction
the overdose addiction
police harassment
incarcerations
female anatomy exploitation
rape child molestation
teenage mothers absent fathers
wic food stamps
the deprivation
the backstabbin
double-crossin rattle snakin
the brutality
the I don’t want to live suicide
the homicide
this dysfunction is genocide

and we got elected officials
who took oath and sworn to this
that draft legislation that keep us
disenfranchised
we got judges who took oath
and sworn to this
who uphold injustice
we got police who took oath
and sworn to thi
state sponsored terrorism
and you got us
who were born in it
forces to maladapt
to the abnormal
I don’t want to hear that
I’m thinking about
a time before

It wasn’t a house
with a chimney or picket fence
but daddy’s overtime hours
made you believe santa was real
momma poured her love
into everything she did
it was home

Photo of a wrecking ball taking down the Henry Horner Homes—former public housing in Chicago—in the early 2000s. Image credit: Josh MacPhee.

now look around
where are the remnants
townhomes big business
and a new shade of resident declare
this locale prime real estate
due north is the magnificent mile
east is lakeshore
sox park is in the heart
and they moved us out
south far south
south suburbs or down south

generations from now
no one will know these
monuments existed
it will take historical
research of the lands
and someone will ask
who are they
another will answer
that’s Robert Taylor
Stateway Gardens
the Dearborns
Harold Ickes
Clarence Darrow
Ida B. Wells
that’s the Law End
Bronzeville
and who are they
Jane Addams
Henry Horner
Rickwell Gardens
Cabrini-Green
that the Chicago Housing Authority
their offspring and foster children
that’s the projects 


Devon Terrell is an incarcerated writer at Stateville Prison. You can write to him at Devon Terrell, #R70180, P.O. Box 112, Joliet, IL 60434

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