_ Mississippi poet Philip C. Kolin traces the evolution of his
childhood neighborhood in Chicago that went from Czech to Hispanic. _
By Philip C. Kolin
A hundred years ago, Czech immigrants
constructed these three flats, row
after row, on Chicago's west side in the shadow
of San Pio's companario
where God now weeps over
the wounds of Hispanic residents.
These flats remain a refuge
from the gangways and abandoned
houses, darkened streets, and empty lots
filling up with slashed bodies and closed
coffins. This is a world that murders prayer.
Yet large kitchen windows and ledges
give los ninos a chance to watch angels
as they pilgrimage across
a sky as blue as the Senora's cape.
And when an icy raid in the middle
of the night threatens to deport
dreamers to chain-link prisions
in Texas, these three flats offer them
the sanctuary of the city.
Some say that Czech ghosts still live there
singing Mi Gente with Slavic
accents echoing from basements
Philip C. Kolin is the Distinguished Professor of English (Emeritus)
and editor emeritus of the Southern Quarterly at the Univ. of
Southern Mississippi. He has published nine collections of poems,
including Emmett Till in Different States (Third World Press, 2015)
and Reaching Forever: Poems (Cascade Books; Poiema Series, 2019).