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Poems On / About CHICAGO  7/31/2015 6:21:31 AM
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  237.     

Visiting A Dead Man On A Summer Day

In flat America, in Chicago,
Graceland cemetery on the German North Side.
Forty feet of Corinthian candle
celebrate Pullman embedded
lonely raisin in a cake of concrete.
The Potter Palmers float
in an island parthenon.
Barons of hogfat, railroads and wheat
are postmarked with angels and lambs.

But the Getty tomb: white, snow patterned
in a triangle of trees swims dappled with leaf shadow,
sketched light arch within arch
delicate as fingernail moons.

The green doors should not be locked.
Doors of fern and flower should not be shut.
Louis Sullivan, I sit on your grave.
It is not now good weather for prophets.
Sun eddies on the steelsmoke air like sinking honey.

On the inner green door of the Getty tomb
(a thighbone's throw from your stone)
a marvel of growing, blooming, thrusting into seed:
how all living wreathe and insinuate
in the circlet of repetition that never repeats:
ever new birth never rebirth.
Each tide pool microcosm spiraling from your hand.

Sullivan, you had another five years
when your society would give you work.
Thirty years with want crackling in your hands.
Thirty after years with cities
flowering and turning grey in your beard.

All poets are unemployed nowadays.
My country marches in its sleep.
The past structures a heavy mausoleum
hiding its iron frame in masonry.
Men burn like grass
while armies grow.

Thirty years in the vast rumbling gut
of this society you stormed
to be used, screamed
no louder than any other breaking voice.
The waste of a good man
bleeds the future that's come
in Chicago, in flat America,
where the poor still bleed from the teeth,
housed in sewers and filing cabinets,
where prophets may spit into the wind
till anger sleets their eyes shut,
where this house that dances the seasons
and the braid of all living
and the joy of a man making his new good thing
is strange, irrelevant as a meteor,
in Chicago, in flat America
in this year of our burning.
 
Marge Piercy

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  238.     

Cheer, Cheer For Old Notre Dame

When Danny Murphy was in kindergarten, just about every Saturday afternoon in autumn, he would go down to the basement and listen to the Notre Dame game with his father. That was back in the 1940s when Notre Dame had great teams. Few teams beat Notre Dame back then.

'How come Notre Dame wins all the time, Dad, ' little Danny would ask his father.

And the answer was always the same:

'Danny, I think the good Lord keeps an eye out for Notre Dame. Especially when they play Southern Methodist.'

All through grammar school and high school, Danny hoped Notre Dame would win every game. But he didn't want to go to school there, despite his father's wishes.

'Notre Dame will make a man out of you, Danny. It'll put hair on your chest.'

Instead, Danny wanted to go to a small school, St. Sava College, because he figured it would be easier to get good grades. St. Save was out in farm country, far enough from Chicago to avoid monitoring by his parents but close enough to get home on weekends. Besides, St. Sava had never had a good basketball team. Danny figured he would probably start at guard for St. Sava as a freshman.

Danny wanted to go to college to play basketball, have a few beers and get grades good enough to get into law school. He figured he would have to study hard once he got into law school so why not have a little fun as an undergraduate. St. Sava, although a small school, had a strong record of placing its students in some fine law schools and medical schools. Danny figured he'd get the necessary grades and then ace the law school entrance exam. But first he wanted to have some fun.

Things went well for Danny in his freshman and sophomore years at St. Sava, although whenever he came home for a weekend his father would try to talk him into transferring to Notre Dame.

'With your grades, Danny, you'll get into Notre Dame without a problem, ' his father kept saying. 'A degree from Notre Dame is a ticket to success. It won't stop you from getting into heaven either.'

Danny not only earned great grades but he averaged more than 20 points a game for the basketball team. Twenty points a game was a good scoring average in 1956. Some kids were still shooting two-handed set shots. Danny had learned the jump shot in Chicago, playing against older kids and he used it to advantage playing for St. Sava.

Many of the other kids had come from families whose parents had emigrated from Bohemia and Slovakia. They had been sent to St. Sava to get an education but also to soak up their cultural heritage. Most of the monks who taught at the school were of Slavic ancestry. Some had emigrated from Europe.

Being of Irish ancestry, Danny needed a little time to get used to the Bohemian and Slovak food served in the cafeteria. He had never eaten lentils and lentils seemed to be on the menu every day fixed one way or another. At least one day a week brown lentils were served alongside breaded 'mystery meat, ' as it was known to many students. It took Danny a while to figure out that the 'mystery meat' was breaded eggplant served in a preparation that was a mainstay in Bohemia and Slovakia. It wasn't that bad once Danny got used to it.

The summer after his sophomore year Danny decided to stay on campus and work in the farm fields for the monks. The pay was poor but with free room and board, how could he go wrong? He'd have money to go to town and have a few beers some nights and a chance to read novels and poetry on other nights. An English major, he had to keep reading to get a head start on the syllabi for courses he would take in his junior year.

Then one hot August afternoon Brother Raphael came down the row of corn to tell crouching Danny that Father Bohumil wanted to talk with him in his office.

'Get a move on, Danny, ' Brother Vladimir said. He was a man who could do anything with his hands and he didn't trust students, especially those from the city as incompetent in the fields as Danny was.

'Pull the weeds, Danny, not the carrots' were the first words Danny ever heard from Brother Vladimir.

Danny figured Father Bohumil, Dean of Student Affairs, wanted to discuss some events for the upcoming school year. Danny had been elected vice president of student government so maybe Father wanted his help on some project. So Danny washed up and headed for Fr. Bohumil's office.

'Hello, Father, ' Danny said as he walked through the office door. 'I bet you have big plans for Homecoming already.'

But it wasn't Homecoming that Father Bohumil wanted to talk about.

'Danny, we've got a problem. Some student has been sending live chickens and ducks to Dr. Compton. I think you had him for French last year. He lives not far from here and the post office there is loaded with crates of live poultry that he never ordered. He figured some student played a trick on him.'

'Well, ' Danny said, 'even if I knew who would did it, it would be hard to tell on him. If the other kids found out, I'd really catch it when they got back to campus.'

Father Bohumil then told Danny that Dr. Compton, prior to coming to St. Sava, had worked for the FBI for 20 years doing intelligence work.

'Danny, he called the companies that sent the ducks and chickens and they sent him a copies of the orders. He brought the orders to school and compared the handwriting with his final exams from last year. That's how we found out it was you who ordered the chickens and ducks. He's not a happy man, Danny, and neither are we.'

Danny realized immediately his time at St. Sava was limited. He thought he was about to be expelled. But Father Bohumil had other ideas.

'Danny, in your two years here you have been an excellent student, a fine athlete and a student leader. Normally, we would expel someone for doing something like this. But I talked with the abbot and he said to deny you registration for next semester and for every semester after that. You can never come back here, Danny. But at least you can apply elsewhere and know that nothing negative will appear on your record. You still have a chance at having a very good academic career.'

Danny was shaking but he thanked Father Bohumil for the leniency. He said he would pack his bags, get a lift into town and take the next train back to Chicago.

'Stop in the kitchen, Danny, ' Father Bohumil said, 'and the nuns will give you a bag of sandwiches. You might get hungry on the train. I hope things work out for you. Never do anything this stupid again.'

Danny apologized again and headed for the kitchen for his sandwiches. It wouldn't take long to pack. But it would be long ride home. And what would he tell his parents, especially his father? That was the question.

Danny got home around supper time. His mother had put together a big feed of corned beef and cabbage for his father's 50th birthday. But first his father wanted to know why Danny had come home in the middle of the week.

'Well, Dad, I've been thinking it over and I think you were right all along. I want to transfer to Notre Dame. I should have gone there in the first place. A degree from Notre Dame will get me into law school anywhere.'

'Now you're talking, son, ' his father said.

His mother had little to say, She was busy dishing up the steaming corned beef and cabbage. It turned out to be a great meal what with Danny's father congratulating his son every bite or two about transferring to Notre Dame.

After dessert, Danny promised to call the registrar at Notre Dame the next day to start the paperwork for his transfer. There was less than a month left before the new school year would start. And Danny wanted to be on campus, sitting in the stands with his father and watching Notre Dame pound the daylights out of Purdue.

Later on, before he went to bed, Danny told his mother he might try out for the basketball team at Notre Dame if his courses weren't too hard.

'Good luck, ' his mother said without looking up from her knitting.
 
Donal Mahoney

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  239.     

My Birthday Was Different This Year

As I was rummaging through
the file boxes my wife had left for me
in the garage
I found a yellow legal pad
scribbled with hand written poems
I had written one night
in a almost crowded coffeehouse
waiting for a poet friend from Chicago
to come up north to read

The poems talked about
how I waited and waited
before too long
several anxious poets
ran up to the microphone
not afraid to trip over themselves
share their delicate poems
about romance and almost romance
detailing having a job they don't like
and it seemed to me
they were also not liking much else about their lives
besides their job they didn't like

My Chicago artist friend as usual
was more then an hour late
which isn't bad considering Chicago
is almost three hours away
so most other places
damn, she would have been early

When I read the poem
I wrote about being at a reading
I didn't want to be at

I realized I was spending my birthday
by myself in a coffeehouse
writing poems
not making much eye contact
with people I didn't even like
although one of the poets
I think Francine is her name
came up to me during a break and said 'hi'
but she didn't remember my name
or knew it was my birthday
and a couple of days after my anniversary
or that I was getting a divorce

that poem I read
was a good sign of things to come

because this year
on my birthday
I woke up with a new friend in my bed
multiple orgasms for her to share
before having a nice breakfast together
of eggs, sausage, hash browns and italian toast
cooked on the George Foreman grill
and things didn't look or feel
the same again
 
Oscar Mireles

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  240.     

A Sea Of Melancholy

She sailed upon a gentle sea of melancholy-brave oars dipping.

She was awash with long ago laments which I could not guess.
Her movements were slow.
Her eyes never darted-they oozed from side to side-
tiny lagoons abutting her sea-
and languidly
she spoke to me.

'I have had so much sadness in my life
young'un and time was I was a bright young thing
but life can wear you down-only so many things can go wrong
before you put your finger to your head and imagine its a gun.'

Friends die, she said, I'm 93 and three husbands buried,
even most of the children dead.
Yet God keeps me lingering on, I think, way past my time.'

My great grandmother had this sad dignity, layers of laments
speaking to herself as much as to me.

'I wanted to know her, her life, and I was her great-great grandchild
eager to know who and where she came from.
She would sit, in her high-backed chair smoking little cigars
starting a story and then abandoning it. Some times she finished
a story but you never could be sure, because her voice would drift
off into memory.

'I was rambunctious' she was saying.' ran off the reservation, barely 20-
they were trying to marry me off to an old white man, half blind, and crazy.

'I was having none of that.
Walked right out and hopped the 401 freight, cap down passing myself off as a boy.
Had me a good old time too.
Them days people hunkered down in the freight cars and never spoke, looking
for a gin bottle and the next stop.

I was fine from the Dakotas to Chicago where in the last leg, a man noticed me
saying 'you ain't no boy are ya? '

Cutest boy, not much older than me, his pockets full of bread loaves and he
handed me one saying ' You look hungry.'

Gave me one of those big-as-a -house smiles of his and I was a goner from the start.
That is how love is sometimes just comes over ya and you just hold on for dear
life because you are not in control. It was like that with me and him.

Called me his 'box-car baby' and cuddled down with me for the final ride into
the city, eating bread and spinning dreams.

'Oh he was a dreamer, on the way to Chicago he said to get his share of some land his grandfather had left in in Alabam'. He was going to take that money he said and do big things-travel high wide and handsome, make him some money and find him a life mate cause times were too rough to travel through life alone.
When I die he said 'I want to die in the arms of my honey, just like this, ' he said squeezing on me.

It was not exactly a marriage proposal, but, he acted like it was and after a month of haggling with his kin in Chicago over who got what, he came out of the lawyer building waving a check saying 'let's go get hitched.' Just like that, he said it. just like that.

'We was together 30 years and God saw fit to take him early'
Great great grand looked at me with those melancholy eyes and said 'things
since have never been the same with me. Never got over God taking him.
Didn't seem fair.'
'Yes' she said 'life has a way of giving you a bit of heaven on earth and then for me heaven just went away.
A single tear formed behind her closed eye-lid, and, I imagined, dropped into her sea.
 
Lonnie Hicks

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