Plain China

Granny Remembers the Chicago Blizzard of '67

by Cheswayo Gabriel Mphanza · Middlebury College · Honorable Mention in Poetry
Burano 1, Sarah Rosenthal · Harvard University


I been cold before.

Black folk always been cold


since this city birthed us

in alleyways and nursed us

in kitchenettes and shanty towns,

scattered over a black belt

of a city, looped in beggary

and destitution.


Since, like a good mother,

this city smothered our poverty

into project buildings, overflowing

with infants who steadily

got adopted by cemeteries

that never honored their names.


I inherited my father’s cold

long before I knew love

could give me the warmth

to shroud me.


Ain’t nobody cold

like a factory worker

whose weathered hands have been

scaffolding the backbone

of a city.


The type of cold that leaves

a man too weak

to say I love you

to his wife and children

’cause his throat too sore

to say those sharp things

And y’all just go on eating

in silence, careful

not to scrape the plates

’cause you want

to give the man some kind

of peace his life can’t afford him.


Yeah, I know cold.

The type that make a woman

wish she never loved

that hard; make a woman

wish she was strong enough

to work with her man

but her bones turn to stone

every time she walks.


A woman

who forgot time been

making her frail and lonesome,

but she still believe

in the beauty of patience.


This cold ain’t nothing.

I come from a family

of icebergs.

About the Author

Cheswayo Gabriel Mphanza · Middlebury College

Cheswayo Gabriel Mphanza is an English major with a concentration in creative writing and minor in African American studies. His poetry has appeared in Middlebury’s literary magazines Black Bird and The Orchard, in which this poem first appeared. 

About the Artist

Sarah Rosenthal · Harvard University

Sarah Rosenthal concentrated in the history of art and architecture with a secondary in computer science. She served as a member of the art board of The Harvard Advocate, which first published Burano 1 alongside its sister piece, Burano 2.