LeMoyne and Spaulding

My dad got remarried when I was ten.

To a woman whose hugs smelled like three shots of tequila before church,

we lived in a cracked window, bug baited, squeaky apartment

on the west side of Humboldt park.

We lived off of  Banquet frozen dinners,

And I was the only girl in second grade who didn’t want to live in Palace.


While Chicago summers drooped against unpaid parking tickets,

and elote men shuffled down pothole scarred streets,

we ran down broken staircases that held everything cracked about our family.

There were always Kings outside our place.


They used to knock on our door at night

while gliding their cocaine stained fingers through

broken door knobs and steel barred windows

as house wives checked for cracked out crowns.


They would pick the gated locks of our security,


while four boys on a corner gulped down gunshots

because they were too young to know the difference

between throwing the crown up or down.  


They say he married her in unity of black and gold.

while I walked the streets with a weighted backpack

full of gang colors and street tags hidden in

between a pale complexion of

too feisty for a white girl

and not fluent enough to be a Latina.


The corner boys said I looked like King Blanco,

asking if I was a queen.


But I’ve spent hours watching spray paint dry

and repainting brick walls in my head.

I’ve spent years inside during sagging summers

wishing for silent nights rather than hushed fireworks.


I’ve spent a lifetime denying my family dynasty while cops patrolled the streets

because my eyes reflect jailhouse tattoos.



I’m not a queen.


I was born into a bloodline of thugs tugging at heartstrings

while neighbors overdosed overnight,

I don’t seem them much anymore.


Dad told us kids to stay inside

while dealers bruised brick walls with

fists of father and guardian gunshots,

but he never fixed the gate.

Never cut off of the connections with Kings,

but cut off the connection with me—


I’m sixteen now.

And I no longer carry black and gold in my backpack.

The corner boys stopped asking what I was,

because I don’t go there much anymore.


I stopped ringing the broken buzzer of my dad’s apartment once

he taught my brother how to slip and slide through the depths of the Kings.


The corner boys call him I name I don’t know while

He guards our territory for hours and


The only thing we share now is eye shape and blood type.

I don’t see him anymore.


I was given the birthright to run these corners,

But I’m ending this family dynasty.

The idea of this monarchy

reminds of poverty and slashed out property,

I belong somewhere else now.

Somewhere far away from these crooked corners,

Somewhere that doesn’t feel like a placeholder for forgotten promises.

Where I can replace tequila and banquet meals with something beautiful,

Throw down this crown,

And strip black and gold to stop dying for this monarchy.


Wherever I go,  I’ll be treated like royalty.

It’s a safety blanket on the west side,

But I will never be just a Queen anywhere else.


This poem is about: 
My family
My community


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