The City Part 3: Modern Thinker

Modern Thinker on the late bus southbound

Considers columns and pillars,

Ripped jeans and skaters.

Nonsense and cogency–life in a mixture.

Suits in alleys,

Kill-count tallies,

And flowers in cracked concrete

Where poverty greets


Death. And breath


That fills also folds with smoke.

The broke and the homeless,

Facing the coldness

In hearts of stone,

That roll to the river and

Build their bitter bridges

Over decades, like barricades.


It’s a beautiful discrepancy,

Elucidated lunacy.

Each night shines effulgently

Over this city and its forestry

Of streets and steel–and people

Riding buses, everywherebound,

Thinking modern thoughts most profound.

–N.R. 10/18/18

LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL

I wrote this poem while riding the bus in Chicago one evening, watching all the different kinds of people there are to be found in the city on their way. I thought about how amazing cities can be–centers of culture, resources for people of many backgrounds, hubs of activity in the world. I also thought about their injustice, violence, and the ways that they often just make no sense. Cities bring out the worst and best in humanity. It’s a paradox that I tried to drive home in this piece, with the perspective of the Modern Thinker: a resident of Chicago’s South Side.

I’m amazed at how Christ embraces cities with all their contradiction and confusion. In Luke 13:34 he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” He loves Jerusalem in the midst of its sin, enough to show grace and love to people there who are completely undeserving. He loves our paradoxical cities the same way, too.

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