By 9am, Chicago’s muggy sky was melting down,
on the two dusty softball diamonds, their patchy outfield,
cottonwoods and cigar trees, seesaws and tire-swings,
and the men, my uncles, unpacking their bat-bags,
already drinking Oldstyle. A transistor radio crooned
Motown, they sang along, gravelly and too loud. We filled
half the park, our family, Mexican and Irish, the women
lounged on bleachers, us kids ran wild, and the teenagers,
plotting their unknown trouble, snuck cigarettes
to the abandoned warehouse— a great wall of green-glass
windows, mostly broken, that towered over the park,
like some guardian relic.  We crept to watch smoke rise
from their lips and learn the newest baddest words we’d repeat
while throwing pop bottles and rocks at the top floor— one point
for hitting glass, two for breaking. Words like motherfucker,
cunt, and wetback, words that flashed like fireworks
in our mouths, words learned at home, words passed down
blindly, that promised to cut us later. And when twilight faded
to the dim orange burn of streetlights, we climbed the backstop
to watch through chain-link, flinching at the thud of every hit,
and squinted at the ball gliding off, the men chasing after.
Their yells echoed off the bulwark of broken windows,
and hung suspended with the floating cottonwood snow.


Lizabeth Yandel