“Epidemic” by Madison Hall

Young writers from Writers in Baltimore Schools visited The Baltimore Sun archive in November 2019 to begin research on what would become archival poems—poems inspired by findings (or, often, lack thereof) in the newspaper archive. Madison Hall, a 12th grader at Bard High School Early College, wrote this after a day in the archive searching for information on squeegee workers…

Existing.

They are here, but why?

Teenagers with their bottles of window cleaner

I have so many questions leafing

Through old yellowed clips

Standing shoulder to shoulder in

A warm room. It

Feels like history, but the pieces are missing

The questions there and the answers

Mixing with soapy water, tossed out at the end of the day


The news says one thing

Patrols try to deter aggressive panhandling,

After several incidents-

A squeegee crackdown.

But there remains a city divided

Forced to confront Baltimore’s poverty on their way to work

Called low intensity extortion or an entrepreneurial spirit

But they’re still here

and draw a heart on a driver’s windshield.


They exist. They are here,

But where in history?

How can they just appear on the intersections

like cabbage patch children out of intersections

Like roses out of concrete


Is that why they were missing from the pages?

Expectations too high that they could get theirs

Because someone deemed them

Menace to society and unworthy as

They exist in pursuit of spare change

If we could make change to spare.

Why are they missing they’re history?

There’s plenty of fault to go around.

Image from the documentary, “By Any Means Necessary: Stories of Survival.”

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