Wednesday, May 29, 2013


When Pilsen Was 18
        jjméndez

You were there playing
Hockey in its streets
Countless winter days
Thinking like a Blackhawk
And swinging your crude
Stick hard–like a pro
In the steely gray
Ice-covered asphalt.

You were there when spring
Arrived dressed in green
With a florid face
And you happily
Readied–mentally
For a fresh game
Of Chicago-style
Softball at Dvorak
Park and held your breadth
Expecting your friends
(And a certain girl
You fell for) to show.

You were there loving
The days getting longer
As the summer’s heat
Rolled in like a giant
Beach ball and you made
Your way to the Throop
Street Play Lot ball court
Strutting to the beat
Of love songs blaring
Out your portable
Plastic radio pinned
On the Park District’s
Tall green wire fence.

You were there cooling
Off your pubescent
Temper in the coolness
Of the corner’s red
Fire hydrant dressed
In car tires that
Shimmered bright when wet
There, you raised the thin
Translucent water
Curtain that showered
Down on you and all
The joyful soggy
Children of the block
And the air was filled
With laughter and song
While the refreshing
City water splashed
On smiling faces.

You were there acting
As the official
Water pump dispenser
Clasping the torrent
Of white water by
Locking the fingers
Of your wide-open
Hands and your biceps
Bulged out of the wet
Sleeve-less frayed T-shirt
Clinging like clear tape
On your swollen chest.

You were there waiting
To greet September’s
Sudden arrival
Flanked by howling winds
Rolling street rubble
Like tumbleweed down
Eighteen Street announcing
The start of the World
Series on TV
And you wished the Sox
Would do it for you.

You were there in your
Third-floor flat living
Room slumped in the red
Sofa-bed covered
In plastic wrappings.
Your eyes were focused
On the black and white
TV screen and when
You felt the chill of
The shifting autumn
Winds, you began to
Itch for a game of
Football with the boys
And emulate the Bears.

You were there on that
Particular late
October night when
You took a lungful
Of blue air and looked
Out of your bedroom
Window and gazed at
The fall moon big and
Round as an orange
Pinned to a star-studded
Urban sky and you
Silently wished that
Your life on Eighteen
Street –the beating Heart
Of Pilsen –would last
Forever…pa’ siempre

©April 21, 2013 jjméndez
The photo above is one of Marcos Raya's --18th Street's Longtime Resident Artist-- paintings depicting  what I see as representative of a vato loco's  " deferred dream"...

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