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Poems On / About CHICAGO  10/1/2014 7:20:29 PM
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  181.     

Hiraeth and Chewing Gum: Tropical botanist Llewelyn Williams 1901-1980

The clans are splintered
Evans Williams Griffiths Price
title bearers of half-dark past,
side by side, alike
yet individual as the trees

We crossed roads not to meet
sweet hidden goosegogs,
illicit pleasures of the boys
while our sisters learned sewing,
dιcor and decorum.

Ach y fi! In the docks
the lame, the beggars
grimy from engine coke,
Welsh speaking, Portuguese speaking.
Tea-clippers. Hiraeth.

Llewelyn went to Assam.
Already scholar, already
naturalist. Those goosegogs,
scratchy bilberries,
dirt-frilled daffodils.

Assam to Wales, Chicago to Wales,
Venezuela to Wales,
from Thailand to Chicago.
His life fills these 56 boxes,
76.2 linear feet of shelves.

A poet of the camera,
in pages of threescore years
he photographed lush plants,
jasmines, coffees, exotics
of doubtful spread.

He strode, sailed, flew
with greatcoat and briefcase,
trunks of equipment,
bold information-runner,
intelligence botanist,

committed recorder
at the zenith of industry
of leaves through a pinprick,
vistas in the plantations,
shuttered light.

These Welsh words are simples.
No names for tropical trees
in our hemmed-in language
Of the heart and hearth.
English the passport.

Botanical Latin
(which is often Turkish)
set over the poetry
of our lives, their secrets
arcane.

Oh she met him, she'd have loved
Chicago Taffs, the Venezuelans,
Patagonians, inroads in Thailand.
She'd have breathed in
the excitement of the tropics.

This love affair of the tree-juice,
latex, the warm sun-sap
that sets all elastic.
There's money and honour
in this kind of drug-running.

Chile, chile, gutter percha,
couma, jelutong
set against hallucinogens,
white wicked milk
of sleep-bearing poppies.

But Welsh is for poetry,
for tradition and goodness
from Dafydd ap Gwylim
to englyn, cynganedd
and the bawdy penillion.

Travel letters to Mary,
stay-at-home wife like a sister,
paper pulped from pine,
commercial tree products.
A life-work's demands.

Chewing gum. Long riding, hard
dancing, the youth cult.
Mucky and sweet, gum arabic
with spearmint, the sharp plant,
penetrating flower.

We cannot eat grass.
There is need for this substance,
grey in spittle, imported.
There is need for the scientist,
Welsh world patriot.

I believe this puzzled world
that begins in the valleys
and stretches out everyway.
The same at seventy-five
as at twenty-five.

Da Iawn, Pob Hwyl.
In Time's trapped classroom
Llewelyn of the chewing gum
still sips his Assam, as he
nods to his friends,

Welsh still on his tongue,
in his archive, his own forest
waiting, the trees named
in their order, surviving
careless and confident.
 
Sally Evans

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  182.     

Evening, Just Before Twilight

Evening,
forty miles west of Chicago,
in a frozen field.
Snow spirits appear and disappear
as the North Wind howls
at the winter moon.
I light a cigar
and wish for a shot of tequila,
wish it were summer,
and I was pulling up
to the Baptist Mission in Texas
where my old man spoke the word
and the choir sang,
when I believed in tongues,
in heavenly utterances,
and the Holy Ghost was immense power
seething within,
and you the sacred vessel
I poured myself into.

My thoughts are of a time
when wind surfed the treetops
and apple blossoms swirled down
on an insouciant world and covered two beings
in its mystical cloak,
when I pressed you against earth
as it spun and traveled
around a star that moved
through space and time
to a point
that exalted you
and love
sacrificed self.

I wrap myself in a season
when I walked into the hullabaloo
of a day,
into the bell
of a lost Sunday,
when tulips were a lover's bed
and wild violets were a bouquet
arranged for you.
I remember a ruckus,
a riot
in my heart,
a hooligan love,
a rapture.

I recall
a time
as the North Wind howls
at the winter moon,
and the Big Dipper pours
twilight
into evening sky -

my thoughts are of you
as I follow the North Star home,
a thousand stars
lighting the way.
 
Esteban Arellano

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  183.     

A Power-Plant

The Fisk Street turbine power station in Chicago

The invisible wheels go softly round and round—
Light is the tread of brazen-footed Power.
Spirits of air, caged in the iron tower,
Sing as they labor with a purring sound.
The abysmal fires, grated and chained and bound,
Burn white and still, in swift obedience cower;
While far and wide the myriad lamps, aflower,
Glow like star-gardens and the night confound.
This we have done for thee, almighty Lord;
Yea, even as they who built at thy command
The pillared temple, or in marble made
Thine image, or who sang thy deathless word.
We take the weapons of thy dread right hand,
And wield them in thy service unafraid.
 
Harriet Monroe

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  184.     

A Place With No Name

“They tell me you are wicked and I believe them…”
— Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”

This is place with no name,
an imagined ideal, nostalgia
wearing bib overalls, chewing
grass stems, herding cattle,
shearing creamy black-faced
lambs. We carry buckets full
of myths and great expectations.

She hungers for the flavor of buffalo, longs for fresh bones, cougar tracks, wolf dens, the scorch of rapid flames escorting one season into the next, total exchange of life for life, of death for hope.
This is neither fairytale nor ancient pastoral, neither romanticism nor barefoot babes—It is Kinsella’s antipastoral in America.
It is coyotes and coydogs lurking behind walls of fiery thistle, luring pups through horseweeds to razor sharp traps with whimpers and pledges of friendship.

I have seen the earth swallow her own children.
I have seen the sun drink until there was nothing left for the land, until the sunflowers hung their heads in shame and wept dry black tears.

I hear nightly incantations of this place, it howls sober songs—I hear the hollow sounds of owls that warn, the cry of cold winds that begin and end every year—
The indifferent frogs chorus through lightening and spring snow—they think only of their children.
I feel her opening up to swallow again—she baits the trap with illusions of splendor, with promises she will not keep—her hunger never satisfied.
She is my grandmother, my mother, your mother, our sister, the apparition from whom we can hide no better than the prince of Denmark. She speaks in a strange language. We lean in to listen—the bait.

This place still has no name.
The nostalgia rusts.
No one wears overalls anymore.
You must know what the owl means.

The old children throw their weapons to the surface in the wake of silver blades, in the bed of that ash which still remains, in the bed where life meets itself—the old women break their dishes against her surface.
The new children cast themselves into her arms—momentarily quench her thirst with tears—they wait for her to yawn.
Cattle are raised in muddy lots. Pigs never see the grass, never the sun, just grated floors and the pretentious hands that mock her grace.

I have seen the red of factories flow through creeks into ponds and wells. I have seen them celebrate their victories and she will not call out to them—she rejects their bitterness. They are sleeping pills, bad drugs.
I see a dead thing on the road. I know the ringed tail, the hoofed leg, the long snout, the white-gray fur, the domestication gone wrong. The vulture is grateful for our mistakes.

The indifferent frogs sing.
Still. The grass has cancer.
We only think of lambs on Easter.
These buckets are getting too heavy.
I cannot tell a lie.

I killed the tree, used it for books that I bought and never read, used it for walls I take for granted, for heat I could have lived without.
I ate the pig, fed the cattle to my children—we used their bodies for shoes, hats, manufactured food for feral cats and roaming hounds.
I leaned in to hear her faint voice whisper. I tried to kiss her, pulled away when she drew me near, stretched toward her again to hear a family secret.
I fed the vultures a skunk, a raccoon, an armadillo, and two cats that I threw into her long weeds.

I chew her poisonous stems, flirt with her cancer, taunt and dare it, engage it in a war where there can be no victor but her, in a battle I expect to win.

We carry buckets full of
myths and great expectations.
An imagined ideal, nostalgia
wearing bib overalls, chewing
grass stems, herding cattle,
shearing creamy black-faced lambs.
This is place with no name.
 
Jane L. Carman

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