My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

City of Cards

Photo courtesy of

I love our nation's cities -- but twenty years ago, certain disasters had me reflecting on the fragility of the "urban webs we weave." I wrote the following from EXTENSION Magazine's Wacker Drive office in Chicago in 1992:

City of Cards

Looking down over this city I know
it could very well be made of paper
as brick and mortar.

These buildings
so broad-shouldered
could tumble tomorrow.

With the Los Angeles riots
the Chicago flood
and Malibu in flames

I am convinced of the fragility
of the urban webs we weave.
Yesterday, I might have looked on this city-scape
as an impenetrable fortress.

But no more.
Because these buildings have held anchor
for a decade or a century
means nothing, really.

An earthquake
a fire
an explosion of human rage

Could break this maze of efficiency
in a heartbeat.

based on the works of man or woman
is an illusion.

We must look deeper.

By Marianna Bartholomew

I found this poetry tonight while I was clearing out papers, attempting to "flip" my basement from a storage area to a spot fit for human habitation! The space is looking much better already, and I'm finding poems and writings I haven't seen in a decade or longer. 

The stanzas above caught my attention, because of the scale of disasters shaking our foundations back in 1992, with the "Los Angeles riots,  the Chicago flood and Malibu in flames." I  worked many floors up in a skyscraper on Wacker Drive and felt vulnerable. 

Just think, I wrote this poem nearly 20 years ago, and life still rolls along. When September 11th hit, I remember feeling "the world will never seem safe again." And yet, here we are. Tonight, bombs are dropping on Libya and people in Japan are homeless and shivering...and yet the sun will probably rise tomorrow on a new day. 

In our world, unsafe since the Fall, people learn to be resilient. Many also learn to dig deeply into their hearts and souls to allow the light of faith in. I'm always amazed by the heroes and heroines that emerge through tragedy: the September 11th firefighters...the "Fukushima Fifty." 

Each of us is called to live heroically...stoically. Disasters shake civilizations to the core, yet we continue crafting beautiful lives for ourselves and our children by the grace of God, our only unshakeable foundation. Many of us have known extreme joy over these years, despite the sorrows. Births of children, friends and family members wedded, anniversaries celebrated...

Even in a "City of Cards," life goes on...may we thank God for each day of it!

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