Sweeping on the 4th of July


Where did he get the broom?

Take a few steps off our front porch and walk ½ a block west on Grace Street and you’ll see him. Sprawled out on blankets in a pool of light underneath the viaduct that carries the roaring Metra commuter train up to the northern suburbs where I grew up but never made it back to once the city grabbed hold of my leg and said, “You’re staying here.” Chester the Viaduct guy. Shaved head peaking out of his sidewalk bed in every season. Quiet. Polite. Sometimes talks when there’s no one there to talk to, Nods when you pass but doesn’t ask for anything except maybe to be left alone. He’s there when the snow gets wild. When the rain roars like like some sort of message from the Bible. Don’t know where he spends his days. His blankets and whatever he can’t carry stored in a garbage bag up by the tracks.

Even his new broom.

Turns out the construction under the viaduct, the cracked concrete and the heat raised up an extra cloud of dust and grime. And as we passed on our way to Trader Joe’s for a few last minute July 4rh essentials, there was Chester. Sweeping his floor. Cleaning the house.

Then when we walked back, lugging our groceries he was still at it. Sweeping and dusting. Taking care of his home. While so many across our troubled, angry country dog whistled the racism, feigned their concern, jammed their boot straps and judgments on the throats of the most vulnerable. While so many strove to erase hope with control and deception, I remembered Woody Guthrie and his song, Remembered while Chester swept his floor and Woody’s song echoed through the viaduct, in just one line he gave back the hope.

That line where Woody sang “This land was made for you and me.”

6 Responses to “Sweeping on the 4th of July”

  1. Paul Haider Says:

    Roger Wright is still my favorite writer in Chicago!

    • chicagoguy14 Says:

      Thanks Paul! You might have been the only person who read this piece!

      • Paul Haider Says:

        Roger, you are the only writer who combines poetry and music with the city of Chicago. My Fourth of July was spent in Philadelphia to see the Phillies defeat the Orioles. However, Chicago has retained all of its independence from King Donald in the swampy cesspool by the Potomac River.

  2. chicagoguy14 Says:

    Thanks Paul! I bet that was some good baseball! And Chicago is doing a pretty job of not buying in to the evils of King Cheetoh.

  3. boomerbob Says:

    I’ve only been to Chicago twice and both times it grabbed at my legs. The city seems alive with its vibrant personality accompanying evening walks as if another person is walking alongside.

  4. chicagoguy14 Says:

    Thanks Boomerbob!

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