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Monday, November 19

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Poetry Thu Sep 18 2014

We Owe Chicago

Palmer Square - copyright Gary Eckstein

Fall into the rhythm. Follow

the footprints already broken

through the snow.
This path was made for you.
A road left by someone's boots

a half-step wider than

your own gait

yet — follow them,

don't stop to founder

in the wind like

a half crumpled receipt

tumbling westward from the lake.
What we owe the winter is shared

underfoot,

a glove returned,

a crinkled forehead expressing

sympathy, saying thanks

and what can pass for a smile

behind a snowbrittle scarf.
This is all we can feel,

numb and

glove-bound.

We burn where we've left

some part open

to the elements.

Say: we can have this embrace —

the banks of the lake are frozen mid-wave

but we totter out together,

snap pictures against the wind.
 

Spring comes on slowly –

the loosed syrup dripping into

pans that never seem to fill.

Head sunward.

Lean in.

Cross the bridge three times

to make your day lucky.
The river's gone green.
It happens because you can

say the words –

Feel the sun on your face and know
you aren't dying.

It continues to be truer each day

even behind the clouds.
Bend and flex your hands.

This is an awakening.

Curl your feet, sockless,

in shoes open at the ankle.

The blushing dampness of the air

is welcome

against the small hairs

on your arms.

Touch your bare palms to cheeks –

    a soft expression of thanks.
We owe the green shoots a clearing.

Rake detritus to the side

to let the rain fall in.

Find worms in the loam –

     fat and bulb-deep.

Cross paths with strutting robins,

glaring with their side-eye.
 

We see summer coming

a long ways off –

  a thunderhead pounded like an anvil.

Flags in the wind – held taught against

dreams of baseballs arcing down

onto Waveland Avenue.

The promise of rain

and long bike rides home –

   the bricked alleys heaving off

the day's heat.
We owe at least one lake baptism to August –

    a dare under the gaze of lifeguards

    overcome with duty.

Sandy, lie breathless

beneath a row of long-haul planes

descending above us –

   a Busby choreography

lining up to O'Hare.
We embrace strangers

with our eyes.

Skim thoughts over bodies

let loose under

what could barely be

a flap of skirt, a suggestion.

Forgive us, the air is full of daydreams –

sun and clouds,

popsicle bells,

mounds of mowed grass that we

take along in socks

like a lover's braid into battle.
Share this cup

and get drunk with me.

This is the time of giants — -

they're waiting for us to wash away

under thunderclaps.

We dare to be barefoot in sudden storms.

Thankful for deep, heavy boughs

that save us from the worst of the rain.
 

Then the leaves all slough off in

one tremendous lurch.
Staggering into autumn like split-lipped boxers,

we call ourselves triumphant –

arms raised high,

shoes soggy in the gutter after

street-sweeping season.

We begin to pray,

begin to say grace at meals with friends –

heartfelt devotions to the goddess of harvest,

to whatever great spirit can keep us

warm and safe as the sun retreats.

We owe Her our dreams.
The city burns orange at sunset, and after –

the mercury lights set scenes

of perpetual twilight.

We beg for one more weekend

warm enough

to sit coatless by the lake,

our hair shrugging off our shoulders

in the wind.
In browning lawns

we find offerings –

broken shoes,

spent charcoal,

decaying pumpkins

sinking into their grins

and a toothy frost.
There's no denying wind

creeping under the sliding door

while we brace ourselves

hip to hip on the train.

We burst down the station's stairs,

hooded, locked arm-in-arm

along the street.

Dusk fading against our backs,

the lake a darkening bow ahead.

We are resigned to this town.

It knows what we've left behind.

We can't say what we would pay.

It already knows what we owe.

 
Photo by Gary Eckstein, via the Gapers Block flickr pool

 
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