Tag Archives: chicago

On Congress Parkway

“Don’t look at my face!” she barked at me across the cold dry night
I couldn’t help myself – I looked at the hard, dry, cracked skin
There were no stains from errant tears on those withered cheeks
She hasn’t cried one salty tear since November 22, 1963

“Put the money right there” she pointed to a bag that smelled like death
She had no patience for another commuter trying to buy redemption for a dollar
I turned left on Financial Avenue and found my warm dry car before long
Damn the ones who taught me the need for salvation and the value of a dollar

 

State Street: Sunday July 1, 2018

There are so many broken souls moving along State Street on this steamy Sabbath Day
Some swing bony arms at ghosts – others hold fast searching for their own Great Whites
Their skin is as smooth as the peanut shells under the seats at the ballpark on Shields
The heat suffocates the reasonable and the cogent rushing from store to store for relief
The broken souls – their pock-marked skin rubbed bare at the elbows – seem impervious
No one noticed them when they were whole – no one notices them now – not today

The Bishop of State Street

The Bishop of State Street has seen more things than you and me
His hard dark eyes are barely contained in their bony sockets
Beads of sweat the size of a baby’s fist get caught in the folds of his nose
And in the deep dark dimples that crease the sides of his face
He keeps his head on a swivel because he doesn’t like surprises

The State Street crowd is changing too quickly and the old ghosts are gone
Younger – harder – faster people push by him but they don’t see him anymore
The rhythm of the change and the rhythm of the night remind him of the trains
The rhythm reminds him of the trains that brought him up here for a better life
The rhythm reminds him of beat of his mother’s heart when she held him home safe

The Ancient Ghost of Regret

Decades gone by like a heavy wind – we shared our lives – not always of our choosing
We traded kind words once – sometimes heavy punches – sometimes just our anger
We never stopped to explain or apologize – rarely showing gratitude – we just were
Consumed by perceptions of our own mortality and legacy we eventually drifted apart

There was one day – lost in the ether of the youth – when I killed what we loved
The ancient ghost I made that day haunts me – after all these years it still hovers over me
I had your trust and I betrayed it mercilessly until you cried – then I laughed at you
The ancient ghost of regret haunts me for not treating you better when I had the chance

More than a lifetime has transpired since that day when I made you so miserable
We have forgiven each other – unspoken apologies for pain we inflicted on each other
We have soared and we have floundered – sometimes together – sometimes alone
Still I can’t keep the ancient ghost of regret from knocking on my kitchen door at night

In Three Years (The Silver Shoes)

We never dreamed there would ever be a time that we weren’t together
You bought me these silver shoes when the black ones just didn’t fit anymore
Soon after the day we found each other – we knew that we would be better off apart
But we were trapped by empty promises to family and friends
The biggest and the emptiest of these lies were the lies we told each other
The biggest and the emptiest of these lies were the lies we told ourselves
We hung on – foolishly – to an idea that had long run its short course
There were nothing left but easy habits and low expectations

When I knew the weight of our life together was too much – I walked away
It was just before Independence Day – weeks after we marked our third year together
At that point you didn’t love me anymore – if you ever did at all – I’ll never know
I loved the idea of you but I only stayed because I was afraid to leave you alone
That final split was breathtaking liberation for me
That final split found me bursting out of the cold dark water
That final split was my rebirth into a better saner world

I finally pulled those new silver shoes out of the box today and tried them on
They are soft and comfortable like I always hoped we’d be someday
They’ll break down and fall apart in about three years – just like we did

Summer 1969

Everybody has a Riverview Park – a Fairyland – a Kiddieland
A soft-focus poorly lit memory Gramma and a handful of nickels and live goldfish
A peculiar place where the smell of popcorn mixes with the aroma of motor oil
Rigged carnie games that somehow never taught us the vagaries of life in time
Dirty-faced men lean on boxes pushing levers provoking the cacophony of screaming children

The white picket fence between you and the deer until your dad brings you in to feed them
You mother unwraps a baloney sandwich and lays it on the creased wax paper for you
Gramma sneaks a cigarette behind the Tilta-whirl as if no one sees her there – puffing away
There is a small patch of trees behind the ticket booth – you’ve been warned so you steer clear
The sun becomes a sleepy penumbra over the tops of the trees out along Harlem Avenue