by ADDISON RAHMLOW (United States)
Issue 2.3 December 2020
Audio: Addison Rahmlow reads
If you take the southbound interstate past The Falls; Good Hope,
broken cement freeways and cracks pooling with dust,
if you take the southbound interstate [keep going, almost there],
you’ll snap between the walls of this city,
it’s crumbling facade.
A pulse dwells in these glass towers, beating, breathing,
slates of transparency basking in clean air, clear air.
Even these skyscrapers hide behind walls of supremacy,
flickering limpid screens. It’s a cage, you see, for brass rods mark
borders here, rim neighborhoods and spew exhaust. Southside,
Northside, Eastside, Westside [does it ever end?].
I wasn’t alive in ‘93 when cryptosporidium poured through
the water like liquid lava, drowned districts and scrawled
segregated lines. I wasn’t alive when the atmosphere
altered and pollution began to split, sticky crests of wind
puffing through communities, leaving some pristine and taintless
while others suffered beneath the ties of an unequal system.
But I am here now; twenty-seven years past the water
crisis and still this city is submerged in severance, waves
of smog swirling deep like the wires of prejudice that divide
these buildings—the bustling freeways and gas-heaving factories
they built on some blocks but not others, the fumes that cover
some streets, and avoid the rest.
When my cheeks were still plump with baby-fat, hands
too small to understand the world around me, I thought
that smoke looked like cotton candy and that these
towers were dipped in sheets of sky, not veils of inequality.
Wau-kee, I called it, for the “L” never came off my tongue.
But I grew older, realizations clicking like puzzle pieces,
clouds of scattered pollution streaming hazes of oppression
down on this separated city.
Milwaukee, I shout now, voice edged in pain at the
collapsing buildings around me, brick built on brick
built on hateful bias. Milwaukee, I yell, a sound in a swarm
fighting for justice, declarations joining
together in a symphony of righteous noise. Milwaukee—
this city—it’s not
neither are its
Addison Rahmlow, age 14, is an aspiring teenage writer from Wisconsin. She is passionate about finding ways to inform others about relevant issues through her writing, and would gladly eat sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.