r james sterzinger
Minneapolis North Side Christmas - Poem by r james sterzinger
'O come O come Emanuel, and ransom captive Israel! '
Arnold Schoenberg's Verlarte Nacht playing loud while I travel
from Robbinsdale to Nord' East
then back to Golden Valley to work
as words come to me this Nativity Poem Season
Highway garland ribbons wrap the North Side
in its concrete bows and tar driven efforts.
Washington Avenue North Side double running with Ninety-Four
which many years ago gutted fine family neighborhood,
hastening urbane separation-decay cutting north through
family homesteads and family Christmas memories
Lyndale sad faces sullen at bus stop waiting for a little of little.
Neighborhood of Plymouth Avenue shops and Jewish shop owners all gone now
last ones bailing out after sixties riots and burning down of property and hope.
Streets changed now. Plymouth housing projects and Pilot Heath Center anchor area
where Penn Avenue busses go west past abandoned dilapidated
boarded up Synagogue. Stars of David on each point, barely hanging on while snow begins to fall.
Fatherless children and de-husbanded wives go into Pilot Center seeking heartless help
while abandoned by the system. Un or underemployed men go see Perry Shannon
for probation reporting.
Further south Floyd B. Olson liberal governor of change stands silent
looking north up Penn toward bus stop where public Metropolitan Council bus
unloads pregnant teenage moms.
Broadway bus stops unload shoppers with gifts
bought from the first and second ring suburb Target stores.
Men congregate near THE CITY wondering where
they will get promised presents for son and daughters
or where they will have traditional Christmas Dinner.
Lowry Avenue got needed spruce up last two years
fallen crack houses gone now
The bridge is gone now too, so Lowry goes nowhere
like homegrown Santas who have to decide whether unemployment
checks will cover gifts or Christmas Dinner but not both
like the avenue itself, no one is going anywhere.
I leave Cathedral library where I volunteer and cross over Plymouth Bridge
take Lyndale Avenue South to Highway Fifty-Five where last
Wise Man with walker and crutch like a forlorn Tiny Tim holds cardboard sign
looks for a few dollars to pay for necessaries to take with him to Sharing and Caring Hands.
As I stare at him I think of Annshalike who was pregnant and found dead weeks later
on frozen garage floor, double killer never found. Her pretty face now graces backside
of Aldrich Avenue bus bench.
Jacques Brel now playing from track to track, as I wonder
Is there any help for you North Minneapolis?
or will your tears flow into ever deeper river toward Dubuque
toward St. Louis, to Memphis, Baton Rogue, New Orleans
out to the Gulf? Will the hope of Christmas find the hearts of your
sad little ones, your sad strange ones, your sad hopeless sons and
daughters, strangled by banker economics?
I don't know about the rest of the cities along the river to the gulf,
nor the Cities through out the Republic.
Minneapolis is my home.
The people here show something of a resilience.
The children of North who have little still smile in gas stations
buying candy with found in couch quarters.
On Twenty-Sixth Avenue I drive through
one of the worst of neighborhoods.
Here flowered wreaths of victims stand on corners.
This street I choose to drive on toward Sunday church
out of sure stubbornness or in search of inspiration.
Here is where I continue to see hope.
Children and moms and dads pour out of Salem Baptist on Sunday late mornings
arm in arm. Little ragamuffins smile at red licorice whips as if they were bought
with a million dollars. Store front Lowry church kids look happy with little of nothing.
The Christmas lights of North shine in the eyes of dark eyed smiling little ones
and that is good indeed.
Snowmen decorate the worst public housing complexes and section eight housing
Street Corner gangsters shepherd mom from the bus stops out of love and hope
Out of St. Anne's on Twenty-Sixth, an ever enlarging Hmong Catholic congregation
has saved the North-side Church for now, while white European Madonna stares over all
Across the river you can hear the Christmas bells of St. Mary's Orthodox,
Of All Saints, of St. Constantine's of others, pealing on Christmas morning.
Hispanics now come out side by side with white folks of Eastern European descent from of St. Cyril and Methodius,
all believing the same Catholic faith anyhow.
When all you have is hope, hope is where you stake yourself to the ground
so the flood of tears and sadness doesn't wash you away.
Hope sets itself between I-pod headed bus riders: the music can't drown out the sound of hope.
Hope waits at bus stops, in the libraries in sad little houses and free clinics.
There you will find Christmas creche shepherds saintly new mothers,
angel children sing: Hark The Herald Angels Sing! while I-pods play Black- Eyed Peas.
On the bus stop of Olson Memorial new saintly Marys wrap dark eyed babies
in first Christmas swaddling polyester twill blankets.
On the corner of Penn bus stop bench bewildered black Joseph has same
lost look as one on Orthodox icon.
Many Jesuses of all colors and sexes walk on frontage roads and streets.
Today he appears as African-American Cutie with dark eyes,
dark fur coat and pink and white plastic purse with widest of smiles.
So as Brel sings, the words in French that I don't understand,
I say the morning prayers that I forgot, for all the people in this poem.
I wish them all the merriest of Christmases, and the ones that are wouldn't want me too.
I wish them the best, without their permission.
May they be warm and safe and full of hope!
May the light of Christmas lighten their hearts!
My hope is their hope, my prayer their's also!
I stake my Christmas happiness to theirs!
My soul is staked to their souls!
We are one searching for the same hope
the same Santa!
The same Christ in the cows feedlot bunk!
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