“When Black People Get to Swim in Chicago” by Matthew Johnson

Reading by the author

You won’t have to be wearing a Bears’ uniform,
After some Sunday victory, to be drenched in a tub of liquid.
Dancing and laughing in front of a gushing fire hydrant
Will not be an urban child’s only option
In the muggy dog days of a sweltering summer; 
You can indeed swim in the city pool,
Without it having to be drained, abandoned, or emptied. 
You don’t have to be showering or taking a bath. 
A mafioso capo won’t have to order soldiers to tie bricks
To your feet so you could see how deep the Great Lake really is.
You don’t even have to be Jean Baptiste, 
The black founder of Chicago, to enter Windy City waters.
Yes indeed, you can just be black, and hot, and bored, and want to swim,
And life will be resuscitated back into the breath of Eugene Williams…

Matthew Johnson is a northern transplant living in North Carolina. An M.A. graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Johnson is a former sports journalist and editor who wrote for the USA Today College and The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Maudlin House, The Roanoke Review, Maryland Literary Review, New York Quarterly, Front Porch Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. A two-time Best of the Net Nominee, Johnson’s debut collection, Shadow Folks and Soul Songs, was released in 2019 by Kelsay Books. His second poetry collection is scheduled for release by NYQ Books. Twitter: @Matt_Johnson_D

Image: “Seagull” by Anthony Burt

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