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The Corner Store

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This is, of course, a time of year where many of us take stock of our lives and give thanks. For one Chicagoan, that means being thankful for his slice of the American Dream and all of the good and bad that comes along on the side. Here's poet and spoken word artist Kevin Coval.


The Corner Store
at wood and division
sells beef jerky and sandalwood incense,
clorox bleach and brass monkey, Mexican and Polish baked
goods for those forced to flee the neighborhood.

in the summer I get Gatorade here
after playing ball in the school yard
at Anderson Elementary where my Zadie
George Coval walked from his apartment
at 1750 W. Haddon, nothing but a giant marble

flick from the two bedroom he shared with half
a boat-load of Russian cousins
forced to flee Cossacks.

in Yemen
it is summer all the time,
or so says the owner
on this first snow this winter
from behind the counter

where in the window behind him, Old Style neon
beckon a 6-pack, and behind these signs
grey sags over the city like a beer
gut about to burst.

the first snow is a pristine blanket,
a moment of beauty before the city
sloshes its boots and tires through
fallen frozen clouds.

it's summer there,
but everyone wants to be here,
he says. his mouth raised toward the falling white,
hair on his lip, talking through wisps of incense,
rising in front of the counter, the end of the stick
stuck through the heart of an apple.

he means America
at the same time he means Chicago,
the immense burden of cold and wind, he means
the dream is still dreamt. at times
toward realized, this America,
this dream of Chicago, this why the world works
under the common wealth of forced gas heat, open kitchen ovens and corrupt politicians. this city and country
are the same
beauty, at first glance
and after toiling in the rush-hour commute,
grit sticks and melts the bones
of those called to work in the dirt
of empire, of country, of city,
with its impossible demands:
to dream the dream,
like a still
landscape of what
is possible.

Kevin Coval is a local poet and spoken word artist, and a contributor to Eight Forty-Eight.  Special thanks to Sanad Nasser.

He's the other voice you heard in Kevin's essay.  Sanad's father is the owner of the corner store at Wood and Division that inspired Kevin's poem.

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