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MILWAUKEE

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 earth, 

this city—it’s not 

expendable, and 

neither are its

people.

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.

 

  #social justice          #community         #environment