There is Beauty Here

by Markel Thomas

Photograph by Markel Thomas

Photograph by Markel Thomas

This poem is about Chicago because ...of course it is, right? As a Chicago native, notably from the south side, I am very much aware of the negative realities and stereotypes that originate within the boundaries of my community. It isn’t hard to remove the humanity from this intensely opaque city. Having gone to school on America’s east coast and traveled to the global east, it is apparent that many people have already innocently and ignorantly done so.


“Hey, I’m Markel. Nice to meet you.”

“Hey, how are you. Where are you coming here from?”

“I’m from Chicago.”

“Oh, great city! What part?”

“South side.”

*Reluctantly* “Oh… Is it really as bad as they say it is? I hear everyone there has guns and they can’t help but shoot each other. You must be really strong.”

“I mean it’s bad in certain areas, but definitely not as bad as some other cities in the states.”

“But Chief Keef bro! He wants to blow New Jersey up!”


Coined ‘Chiraq’, the murder capital, and my personal favorite, ‘Drillinois’, the city’s south and west sides have been reduced to the statistics that plague them. These social perceptions outrun the actual happenings of Chicago and it gets old quickly.

Yet, this city is nowhere near peaches and cream. The intentional divestment, fraudulent housing contracts, and redlining to prevent children from accessing adequate schools from the 40s and 50s on has taken its toll on what used to be a Mecca for Blacks nationwide as they escaped sharecropping in the South. It is a fact that in 2016 more than 750 people were murdered. It is a fact that unarmed black men are gunned down by police. It is a fact that more people were murdered in the city than were murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You let many people tell it, this city is in fact a warzone.

With this poem I attempt to highlight how the visceral realities of the city allow the political fuckery to be eclipsed by the very externalities created by this Windy City. And yet as you will see, it cannot eclipse the purest moments that imprint themselves on the young psyche as they would in a place where ‘things like that don’t happen here.’ There is beauty here.


Silver Lining

I’m from a place where there is perpetual fight. A place where even when the sun shines bright it’s as dark as night. A place where even when you made the right turn you’d wish you went left. A place where it is common to wonder how people will react to your death. A place where you hear ‘are those gunshots or fireworks? but wait it’s July 21st and they’ve been doing that since the 1st’ but moments later from another distraught mother’s mouth wails of agony burst, crying “Why? Why? Why’d they take my baby? A place where at night people roam the streets and are either crackheads or crazy and the only excuse America has is that it’s because they were lazy. How could that not phase me, make me angry? It’s a different beast this place where I’m from. It’s a place where, even to murder, children are made numb. Where respect is given to those that have a gun, and let them fire for fun just to laugh when they see the people run. A place where mothers cry because they can’t feed their child and yet even in the deepest depression she still finds the will to smile. This place is wild. And I hate it, but I love it too. This place was there when I learned how to tie my shoe. There when my brothers were born and when I had my first kiss too. There when from three feet to five feet my little body grew. This place is like dark chocolate, how bittersweet. “I’m glad I made it out that place but I’ll never forget it.” I think, as I lay my head on my bedsheet.


You can learn more about Markel Thomas on his website:


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