senn_park_lincoln_chicago
Concrete and other measures of a neighborhood
by Patrick T. Reardon

Let me tell you about my neighborhood.
Like any neighborhood. Like yours.

In the curb, in the cement: “David 11/29/86.”
Our son, the date the city of Chicago workers poured the concrete for the curb.
He was a year old. I used my car key.

Nanay — “mother” in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.
A grandmother already of her own family, a block away,
caring for grandchildren.
Cared for David and later Sarah when we were at work.
Became their grandmother — their Nanay.

A neighborhood of Koreans and Vietnamese,
Irish, Germans, Poles, Serbians, Croatians, Italians and Romanians,
Asian Indians and American Indians,
African-Americans and Africans from Africa,
Mexicans and Guatemalans and Columbians and Haitians
and Nicaraguans and Cubans and Peruvians,
Chinese, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Assyrians, Russians and…

A neighborhood of Coca Cola factory workers
and ex-priests and nursing home inspectors
and building janitors and busboys and cab drivers
and judges and crossing guards and engineers
and actors and chefs and cops and secretaries
and musicians and teachers and mechanics
and drug store workers and social workers
and waiters and…

The Major and Wally,
Lawrence and Louie, Rudy and Feli,
the house where a suicide may have occurred,
the backyard with tomato plants where David’s bicycle
was stolen by a United Nations of three 11-year-old robbers,
the townhouse where Sarah’s friend Rowena lived,
the way she pronounced “Rowena,”
the gentle slope up to Ridge Avenue,
the alleys,
the streets,
the curbs,
the sidewalks.

The precinct captain comes at election time.
Our garbage is collected. Our snow-filled streets are plowed.
Vote Democratic.

On the sidewalk along our porch, in the concrete:
“Sarah 5-6-92.”

IMAGE: Statue of young Abraham Lincoln, Senn Park, Edgewater Neighborhood, Chicago, Illinois, by Charles Keck (1945), installed in 1997.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by an essay I wrote in the Chicago Tribune in 1992, which can be seen here.

patricktreardon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a lifelong Chicagoan, was a Chicago Tribune reporter for 32 years. An essayist and poet, he is the author of five books. He is writing a book about the Chicago Loop. His website is patricktreardon.com.