One MPLS: a city in verse

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January 22, 2014
By: Camille Gage
Camille Gage

Poets, in order of appearance:

Brian Beatty

Allison Broeren

Heid E. Erdrich

Kirk Washington, Jr.

Paula Cisewski

Juliet Patterson

Bao Phi

Doug Wilhide

Ed Bok Lee

Nimo Farah

Sun Yung Shin

Andrea Jenkins

*** 

Lake Nokomis. Minnehaha Creek. Or hosed over 

out-of-season ball fields and frozen for winter weekend hockey,

the native waters that call leagues home

we now navigate by pink-orange street lights and those winking

diamond-like stars we consider ourselves lucky to see. Even when they're airplanes.

Down the block, a dozen or so kids play a pick-up game in the early dark

— their skates singing, “Stay inside, neighbors. Fall asleep in your chairs. We’ve got this.”

 

Irony overflows from the Chain of Lakes.

Parrots walk their people, people push strollered dogs, and cats on leashes leap at passing sails.

In the streets of Uptown we add snow to ski in winter,

melt to hot pavement for art in the summer,

and in between take Nice Ride urban cruises to islands of outdoor seating.

We are thrift store treasure hunters, bowling alley theater-goers, old money freedom, pop collared hopefuls,

a shaken globe, floating by each other,

each flake unique, each needing the other to know they are snow.

 

City—remember your first names. Names map the way home.

What did we once call Franklin?  That Avenue

of narrow lanes on an astronomical plane

equinox sunrise at the river to lake at sundown.

Old Dakota road.                          Old Mnisota road.

And Cloudman’s Village: lakes, parks, and dog parks now.

Now tattoo-bicycle-beach land, trails over rails land,

now mansion-condo-loft-studio-shelter land. Now home.

 

language describes the ideas of the ones who speak it

…the single stories about the 5th ward…& the words we see that narrate gentrification, in real time, say a lot.

 

I speak the gospel of the Northside, with the rage of lovers…

…and perceive in my dreams.…

a unified breath that electrocutes fear and misunderstanding

     …to remain apathetic is assured enslavement so…precisely, what is a dream?

 

We’ve lived here since before

the world was slated to end

and didn’t end, and was quickly

predicted to end again. Memory’s

train whistle and hope’s bicycle bell

reel through our windows and seep into

our dreams, and every year, like clockwork,

we can hardly believe how beautiful: the leaves.

 

That twig of light, that branch

that fork, that form

 

where the river

tries to reconstruct itself

 

writing with its wobbly needle

what convinces

 

with the impossible whisper.

After that, a city.

 

Walk down Lake Street and count in languages the word “rice”.

American Indian people, who have always been, to the newest new-here’s,

we are collision and collection of bruises and missed buses,

This by itself doesn’t solve the world’s problems –

it doesn’t even necessarily make a good block party.

But live long enough and everything becomes a revolution:

each language a survival and each body a song.

 

 

We are such rootless bodies most of our lives

all of us seeking, urgently,  what we cannot name

many of us not from around here --

We leave, we dream, we wander, we roam.

 

City of beautiful lakes and lovers

Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers

ice rink winters, swimming summers: show us how

to make this place... this refuge... this gift... our home.

 

Last summer the storm made it a war zone. Rain 

until soil and gravel ached. Midnight car alarm arias. But I love

the suddenly after as much as the just before. Strangers

gathered on porches, broken phones. Conversation

shared like kerosene in a coal mine. All around, boxing ring

power lines and tree trunks of unruly hair. Dear Neighbor

with the sweet smile and politics all wrong,

thank you for the cigarette and radio.  

 

 

In Minneapolis we build bridges with stories 
and  teach each other new ways with new words. 
We sit over sweet tea simmered in cinnamon sticks
with our new neighbors, 
telling them how we came from the dessert, 
how we choose this city and how this city choose us, 
how the many lakes, snowflakes,
and friendly faces give us hope for a flourishing future.

 

 

Mni polis, dwellers of this new place, hive of curious human honey—

Let nothing be foreign: the memory of glaciers and their boulderish tumble love…

 

Dear red fox! Your cunning tail brushes this strange language onto blue snow!

One city: the white-night dazzle of light-drunk moths…

 

Let none of us be foreign to one another—one sky, one green home, el mismo sueño

For the human heart is a hot red nest, but limitless, a room of boundless space…

 

So we will take our fearful boots from one another’s necks—

For I am your keeper and you are mine. Yes. Let roses spring from our tongue.*

 

 

First we begin with history-

Twenty years ago almost to the day a determined young Black woman was elected

To the Minneapolis City Council, eventually becoming Mayor.

Time lapse to the future, the inequities have deepened

And plunged us like the I-35W Bridge into a river of despair.

Today we gather at the town square to install the second woman Mayor

Hope reigns supreme that she is one who cares.

Let’s start something...

 

*Note: The phrase “roses spring from our tongue” is borrowed from the line “we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue” from the poem “City That Does Not Sleep” (“Ciudad sin sueño”) by Federico García Lorca, translated by Robert Bly.  

 

 

Produced and edited by Camille J. Gage

Design by Rosie Kimball

 

This chapbook was created for the One Minneapolis Inaugural Celebration and to honor Mayor Betsy Hodges and the Minneapolis City Council. 

One Minneapolis: a city in verse by Brian Beatty Allison Broeren Heid E. Erdrich Kirk Washington, Jr. Paula Cisewski Juliet Patterson Bao Phi Doug Wilhide Ed Bok Lee Nimo Farah Sun Yung Shin Andrea Jenkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.