"My South End"
This poem was written by Ngọc Uyên Nguyễn and was originally published by TAUNT, Louisville's exciting new independent magazine. It is posted here with permission from both Uyên and TAUNT.
My South End
Years ago my dad promised we would buy a house near the library,
because I loved books.
My mother bought that house for us
eventually in Beechmont.
Before Beechmont, my South end was Taylor Boulevard.
I watched the Derby goers parade once—rich and poor alike
strutting down the street in their hot pink, blue and lime green
suits and feathers and heels pouting against the concrete,
because rich or not, winners or not, they all are reduced
to walking on their own two feet.
Cars zoom by so fast down Taylor; they don’t want to see
the man on the corner, sign saying, “Anything would help.”
Bus stops housing sallow faces, paying in changes we can’t afford
rent rising, cars broken in, people dying, librarian
pleading--save the youths. Hold the guns. Even
the needle exchange van keeps moving.
Before Taylor it was Americana,
the apartment complex that housed new immigrants and refugees.
We were taught, tell the bus driver “Americana”
and he’ll bring you home. Americana
is now a community center, once founded to serve the complex’s residents.
Americana Community Center took its name and moved out,
now still serving immigrants and refugees.
The East enders gush about South end’s diversity in ethnicity,
they don’t live here.
They know and love Vietnam Kitchen. But
do they know Thúy Vân, Á Châu, Chilakiles,
La Riviera Maya and La Guanaquita?
Diversity is more than one.
Tree-lined Southern Parkway is so green—
envy well watered with silence—muffling buses hissing by on all kinds of streets
except the prettiest part of the boulevard,
where sidewalks stretch
wider than houses just the next block over.
Only there can the aging poor and the newly welcomed afford to live.
We can all hear the 1AM fireworks months after the Fourth of July.
Everyone’s favorite is Iroquois Park,
where Southern Parkway meets Taylor Boulevard,
where Beechmont meets Iroquois,
where the middle class meets
I wish people would love Iroquois public library
as much as Iroquois Park,
where you not only see people, but also meet people.
There, Sophie Maier, the city’s first Immigrant Services Librarian, will tell you,
“Say hi” and “come help.”
The Beechmont folks complain on the neighborhood’s Facebook group about the area’s diversity
in income and struggles,
and “the homeless,”
and strangers knocking on doors.
A stranger knocked on our door:
“Your mother’s garden is beautiful.”
My mother is never shy at saying hi.
Our neighbor shared his patch of garden with her.
She was the first to know his name.
My mother moved away last year.
This year the patch is still
sprinkled with purple tía tô, and amaranth still
snuck in between his kale, cherry tomatoes and muskmelons.
“Someone left free aloe plants in the Woodlawn gazebo,” my mother texted.
My neighbor said, “My mother used to know everyone on this street and all the blocks around.”
I worried when he and my brother talked about shooting whoever stole his mowing equipment.
Some Beechmont folks planned Black Lives Matter protests on Southern Parkway. Cars honked driving by our signs. My neighbor’s daughter raised her fist in solidarity. The next day, their door window said ACAB. She loves books too.