Modern Thinker on the late bus southbound
Considers columns and pillars,
Ripped jeans and skaters.
Nonsense and cogency–life in a mixture.
Suits in alleys,
And flowers in cracked concrete
Where poverty greets
Death. And breath
That fills also folds with smoke.
The broke and the homeless,
Facing the coldness
In hearts of stone,
That roll to the river and
Build their bitter bridges
Over decades, like barricades.
It’s a beautiful discrepancy,
Each night shines effulgently
Over this city and its forestry
Of streets and steel–and people
Riding buses, everywherebound,
Thinking modern thoughts most profound.
I wrote this poem while riding the bus in Chicago one evening, watching all the different kinds of people there are to be found in the city on their way. I thought about how amazing cities can be–centers of culture, resources for people of many backgrounds, hubs of activity in the world. I also thought about their injustice, violence, and the ways that they often just make no sense. Cities bring out the worst and best in humanity. It’s a paradox that I tried to drive home in this piece, with the perspective of the Modern Thinker: a resident of Chicago’s South Side.
I’m amazed at how Christ embraces cities with all their contradiction and confusion. In Luke 13:34 he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” He loves Jerusalem in the midst of its sin, enough to show grace and love to people there who are completely undeserving. He loves our paradoxical cities the same way, too.