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By April 25, 2013May 4th, 2014Blog

The Invocation: Courage in Cook County
(a late night/early morning draft)

by aja monet

Downtown is behind us
and we’re driving up the Dan Ryan
to 63rd and Stewert where therein lies
a block of a building called, a school 
just after the train tracks
I look out the window 
from the passenger seat 
to observe a refined man 
the color of shimmering hooves,
the Sears Tower of the South side,
a chest congested bullet proof
as he sways his body, 
waving cars around him,  
a black gun hugs 
off the right side of his hip 
like a neglected child.  
How something so fierce 
and enraged 
could still long to hold and be held, 
I’m imagining the touch of a trigger before class. 
Chicago is like I remembered her.
Shivering into corners 
and tucking into sides. 
My job, I’m told, 
is to beautify your neighborhoods 
with voices. 
Voices more than violence, 
more than statistics or figures in law books.
I walk into a noisy hall 
of beige pants and navy shirts,
uniform teenagers.

The bell has rung and the deep azure blue lockers shut close.
I’m an invisible poet
with a hand full of books
and a mind mystified with exercises.
I’m reminded of that Saint
from the Church where Jody Williams
and I spoke the day before in Pilsen
to elementary kids about peace,
about peace in a Church
named after that patron Saint jude,
the saint of lost causes.  
I enter Mr. Eldriges room
anticipating the mugs
of knowing-too-much-for-their-own-good children,  
southern words creaking off their tongues like splintering wood-porches falling down the back of tenement buildings.
A room full of daughters and sons
that have seen far too many lost causes.
I ask the students to write
about where they are from, 
not the place as in the city,
the neighborhood or street 
but the sounds,
the smells,
the songs,
the people—
to describe for me their visions
of a life lived
as more than
an identity bracket.
They write poems, 
open chest towards their desk 
scribbling to the back drop of passing trains 
outside the classroom window. 
The trees lining the street are 
just about naked as their hearts 
spilling between the pages 
and one girl reads her poem, 
describes herself in third person.
“She is beautiful like charcoal potholes” says Lor. 

I smile at the Pulitzer prize worthy simile.   

I survey the room for more voices:

“I hate it when I took out the garbage and saw them gun shells, but hey, that’s where I’m from..where Im from it feels like the twin towers cuz everything that’s black is considered a terrorist…Is it really me destroying my life or the people that don’t believe in me?”

The ambulance  is her soundtrack 
and I want to hush the world for a moment.

Let us pray:

As we are placed into positions of authority,
may we remember our children,
all of our children, still children,
being tried as adults.
Children searching for their voices
between school bells and echoing sirens.
Children whom have seen or known
someone that has died far too young.
May we recognize the collective
in every decision we make,
to be reminded of the many
faces that compose our communities
and therein those whom are directly
affected by our successes and our failures.
May we be transformed and renewed each day.
May we invest in our bettering,
in methods of transforming
personal agendas into social politics.
Let us not forget to be human
in our efforts to be great,
in our efforts to be less than great.
We have all chosen
to participate in a society
that recognizes
the bootstraps and the bootless.
May we reach into our hearts
deeply and diligently,
each day,
with love and wisdom.
May we work towards a vision.
An ultimate goal.
A county of liberated children
and parents that live to love them..
Of fluid neighborhoods and healthy communities.
May we invest in our futures.  
May we invest in prevention.
In programs and schools.
May we invest.
May we collaborate with each other
more and more, set aside our egos.

May we gravitate towards the light
inside us,
to be reminded of our humanity
in a world where violence is learned,
is taught by example,
may we lead by example.
May we learn that silence, too,
is also a form of violence,
may we always give voice to the voiceless.
May we shift our cultures
into creations more than legislation,
to protect and provide.
To serve, always, to serve
that feeling entity within,
no matter how weathered and withered
by the beuracracy of a past.
No matter, no matter.
May we forge into our imaginations
for a brilliant future.
May we remember people as stories,
people as people,
and all the countless victims
of this system striving
and struggling each day
to maneuver the laws we set forth.

Here is a poet’s prayer,
a prayer that magnifies
our people and not our complaints,
that calls on our weaknesses
so we may work towards our strengths.
May we be responsible and accountable
to each other.
May we be remembered
or else forgotten
for our support of “lost causes.”
No more jails. No more jails. No more.  
May we deal with the root of our crimes
and not the symptoms of its manifestations.
May we recognize crime as a disease.
May we all be cured.  
Everything is converging.
It is not happening within another world.
It is happening within us.
May we seek truth. More truth.
May we learn the art of listening,
the magic made of intently hearing.
May we cease the need to govern
our schools and neighborhoods with guns.

Have you ever felt the static of graves?
A body of windows, 
flesh remembered by air?
There is more to know
than the tears can tell us
more to feel
than the bruise
or the open wound.
What song will you sing by a grave
like the rain catching your skin 
and the wind between your toes?
What beauty will we offer our past?
What ethics? 
What moral courage? 

May we be courageous. May we be courageous.
May we be courageous. May we be courage.

Like a 13 year old pumpkin-brown boy  
in Cook County Juvenile Detention Center
who looks me dead straight in the eyes
and tells me how he saw his father
die at age 9 
in a poem.
May we be courageous.
May we be courageous.

May we be courageous.