Hugged fingers for safety protect me
as my grandmother and I mark our paths on the ground
to ensure that we can return home again.
Our hearts racing, but this is no anticipated adventure
This is what it takes for a simple stroll, dreaded and necessary,
from our home to the grocery store
whose own sign we cannot see.
The sign has long been taken - but I swear it’s still there -
Only now it is consumed and suffocated by the same polluted haze
That my grandmother and I stand in.
Never have I wondered what toxic chemicals smell like
But now I know as it permeates our skin, fills our lungs
With cough-inducing wastes in this gray air that we breathe.
‘Those chimneys of unregulated, myopic companies erupting with byproduct wastes’
‘Towering construction sites every other block spewing dust’
‘The unchecked exhausts of too many cars’
I hear the name calling and finger pointing of our neighborhood gossip
But talking must follow with change.
Each and all must work together to realize this severity
Beyond the search for places to blame
To promote in fevered determination
The necessary regulation and collaboration
To eradicate this gray air that we breathe.