‘Common Ground’ by Lee Chilcote

At Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque
you can order a pulled pork sandwich
that spills from the soft white bun
and eat it messily with your hands
with a cold draft beer
while glancing at the strangers
in the booth beside you.

East of downtown, the squat brick building
sits on a fault line all the locals know,
the cafeteria’s greasy floors
an uneasy common ground
where residents east and west of Troost
meet over the sweet taste of barbeque
slow-smoked over hickory logs
and served with a tangy side of sauce.

Beyond this bountiful meal,
jayhawkers and bushwhackers
attack each other on dusty roads.
Freed slaves step off of trains
looking for work in a boomtown.
They find jobs in meat packing houses
and live in the shanty shacks
of the West Bottoms.

We travel these rutted tracks back
beneath broad boulevards
and gushing fountains.
Charlie Parker wails a tune
that bubbles up from manhole covers.
The steam of laundry houses
and streetcars rolling south
are pressed beneath the concrete.

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