Seventeen Haiku Stanzas for Richard Wright

Sunrise ripples west
over the lake in December—
no warmth, little light


            high rise after high
            rise hard between the IC
            tracks and lower State


like Stonehenge hard off
the Ryan driving hard for
the Loop, then O’Hare


            no druids here—only
            the Housing Authority
            with its deep need to


keep the cold city
separate but equal, bound
grid of black, white, brown


            The middle passage
            ends here, abruptly, in
            concrete and silence


Chicago, blind beast,
thresher of the east, middle
and west, rendering


            livestock, lumber, grain
            and capital into art
            and architecture


As he walks Stony
Island—exhaust, exhaustion,
the black boy wanders


            the middle passage
            a journey without end, by
            way of Abe Lincoln


his world much bigger
than it was, so much smaller
and so much the same


            so much he did not
            know, the grey reality
            of industry, ice


apartment full of
cold, roaches, and memories
innocents sleeping


            the long dream of
            emancipation streaming
            through his mind, unkind


Mississippi or
Chicago, two sides of
one fence, Jackson or


            Chicago, two sides of one
            fence, between the white man and
            the chilly blues, don’t


make no difference—
blues is falling, falling down
like December rain

Copyright © 2019 by Anthony Walton. This poem was first printed in Pleiades, Vol. 39, No. 1 (January 2019). Used with the permission of the author.