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it wouldn’t take much

By Eve L. Ewing

[Officer Callahan] gave his racial philosophy freely in the following remarks: ... It wouldn’t take much to start another riot, and most of the white people of this district are resolved to make a clean-up this time.
           — The Negro in Chicago, 1922, p. 451

an erasure of the email I received from the management of my apartment building the day of the Jason Van Dyke verdict, October 2018.


Image Description of This Poem: This is an erasure poem. Most of the text is redacted by black highlight, totally obscuring much of the original text. The remaining text is the body of the poem and reads as follows:

We have been informed that the City will activate when the


a decision a verdict a Sunday

if civil unrest becomes
your home, please always remember [the] night.

any mob[,]
a police immediate

do not let anyone follow[.]

your best friend before and during a crisis Stay[.]
Know where the danger
hits its peak.

While a crisis is your radio[,]
will be tremendous

Since there’s a good chance you will be confined to your home you will want
to make sure you have enough

Home is generally the safest place to be during riots[.]

don’t go out[.]

look. The last thing you want is the chaos.

However, should you find yourself outside stay away

make your home possible.

on a day to day level,
your wits your eyes
means getting out

Keep focus[.]
Keep your focus on the present

what is happening before it escalates
be safe


Listen as Eve L. Ewing reads "it wouldn't take much."

Added: Monday, January 6, 2020  /  From "1919" (Haymarket Books, 2019). Used with permission.
Eve L. Ewing
Photo by Nolis Anderson.

Dr. Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist of education and a writer from Chicago. She is the author of the poetry collection 1919 and the nonfiction work Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side. Her first book, the poetry collection Electric Arches, received awards from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America and was named one of the year's best books by NPR and the Chicago Tribune. She is the co-author (with Nate Marshall) of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. She also writes the Champions series for Marvel Comics and previously wrote the acclaimed Ironheart series, as well as other projects. Ewing is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other venues.

Ewing is a Featured Poet for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness (March 26-28, 2020) in Washington DC.

Other poems by this author