Indianapolis Makes Peace with Me: a Haibun

(by Daniel R. Jones)

I was feeling cynical from living grid-locked in a city spelunking so far below the poverty line. I took a walk and passed children on blacktop with sidewalk chalk in hand. Underprivileged kids— if clothes, or a bed to call your own, or a father can be called a privilege.

I made my way to a park, passing kids playing pick-up baseball—kids who can’t quite reach the lowest rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but still manage to find time to enjoy themselves.

I proceeded past a couple girls making a wish on a dead dandelion. Where there should’ve been hope and joy, I saw an invasive species and an old wives’ tale.

Superstition ensured
the weeds would spread
as children blew through ghastly heads.

I came to a playground and took my seat on a swing.

And there, suspended in air, swinging like a pendulum between love and hate for the place that I live, the city said it’s sorry:

For not being more conscious of itself. For teeming with cocksure gangsters in ’97 pimped-out Cutlasses, their seats slid back, one hand atop the steering wheel, feeling like the king of the world.

For the middle-aged men on Mopeds because they’ve got DUIs. For the fact that they drive in bike lanes, passing lanes, and sidewalks indiscriminately, always at 35-miles-per-hour.

For the stench of ammonia rising up through the ceilings of two-bedroom apartments and heroin needles strewn across tall-grass where children play.

For the morbidly obese, the ramshackle houses, for miles of industrial blight and the ratchet white girls with bad tattoos. For dirt-poor, underserved neighborhoods named after Parishes, such as Holy Cross and Little Flower.

For all this, the city says it’s sorry.

For not living
the way Christ said we should.
The Great Omission.

Forgive me, the city says. Forgive me and I’ll reward you with sunny afternoons and strolls through Ellenberger Park. With the sound of children laughing as they climb the jungle gym and snack on Takis.

I’ll reward you with charter schools where white kids learn to shout “aquí!” when they’re open in two-hand-tap football in the schoolyard. I’ll reward you with the Pour House, where the homeless are fed and clothed.

With a thriving jazz scene, and Book Mama’s and Irvington Vinyl. With rich cuisine at oddly named restaurants: “Bluebeard” and the “Slippery Noodle” and “Milktooth,” and with a world-class racetrack.

The city says it’s sorry
offers up its charms
Apology accepted: I take it in my arms.

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