Saturday, January 12, 2013

a census

A census in 2008
revealed two million
six hundred ninety five thousand
five hundred ninety eight
people lived in Chicago.

On July 1, 2010 we added four more,
topping off the hundreds column
with all the flourish of stale pannekoeken waiting for stroop.

Tonight I mark
the census particulars
in a large paved walking circle:

two white women playing tennis
in the middle of four empty courts;
she serves like a seven-year-old,
bouncing the ball on the concrete
and stroking underhand

an elderly Asian man jogs,
joining us on the perimeter;
he is wearing bright blue,
sweat dampens his forehead
and steady stays his pace

two small deer
meander the adjoining parks,
slower than the jogger,
flanked some distance by
a watchful mother on the tree-line

they are able to live here
in this city of broken roads
because others have learned to
respect and revere their presence

I mark them because they are
no census tells of their existence
but the dignity afforded them by God

and two Jewish boys sit on a park bench,
outside the path, facing in;
they both wear bright white tops
black trousers, black shoes and skull caps;
ringlets dangle by each ear,
playing to catch God’s whisper in the wind;
Shabbat has just ended

I am on the footpath as I pass the quiet boys
while two women, faces covered,
stroll in our direction shortly after
bowed prayers to Allah.
They chat in words I do not recognize

yet I do know something of their language.
The key word is translated as peace.
I rest and think: “So be it among the multitudes
we scarcely know.”

Could it be that we are side-by-side
in heaven
and Shabbat
has just begun?

A Census
by Troy Cady

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