Pilsen Rican

by Philip C. Kolin

I grew up in Hispanic Pilsen in Chicago

Hearing Dobra noches and poking

Piñatas stuffed with

Kolachskis and tomatillos

Rio Grande chicos

Flooded into Chicago

Circa 1954, Antonio Oraocco

Enrolled at St. Pius V

He had two front

Teeth growing

One on top of the other,

His brother's tongue

Traveled only

In Español except

Miercoles for the trip

From the public school

To study catechism

With the Slavic nuns

We went to Milo

To watch movies in the 1950's

Gene Autrey's South

Of the Border

In real reruns

In the old neighborhood

The streets the Czechs

Walked to catch

The bus had such calm

Names as Blue Island or Ashland

Taking them to work at Western

Electric now flash with salsa —

The music, the taste, the blood

Of so many young Latinos

17 funeral Masses in one summer

More than three generations

Of Czechs who had been laid out

In stiff collars in a less cruel year.

The Madonna

Cries the same amount

Of tears for both

Cholos and old boushas.

On Holy Thursdays

I take a Czech Posadas

Pilgrimaging past invisible churches —

Adalbert, Vitus, Ludmilla —

All the saints of the Czechs

Now answer prayers in Español.

Pilseners three and four

Generations full

Visit the old neighborhood —

Chichuahua in snow —

Hoping to catch

Their grandfather's ghost

In the gangways between

The sagging two flats.

I looked dark and

My passport was stamped

Pilsen, though only

My grandparents were

Webacks of another sort

Salvaging their homeland

In steerage when they arrived in 1890

Without a peso in their pockets

Philip Kolin's new book of poems, Wailing Walls, is published by:

Wind and Water Press

P.O. Box 49

Conneaut Lake, PA 16316

Or email timesing@zoominternet.net.

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