GLIMPSE OF THE BIG CITY
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
If you were a good
And faithful altar boy
For three years, from
Sixth to eighth grade,
In the early sixties,
Mumbled your Latin
Passably, stayed out
Of the sacramental
Wine, and didn’t
Drop anything large,
Mid-altar, at high mass,
Would reward you
With a train trip
To Chicago from
And a night at the
Heady stuff for
Vatican II lads,
The good father
Was last seen having
Traded his Roman collar
For a black Ban-Lon,
And heading into
The hotel bar.
But no matter: the
Hotel television had
Six channels. We had
Room service tab.
Malt, and Orion
Samuelson, whom I now
Realize was Garrison
Keillor’s evil uncle
With the morning farm
Report on WGN.
Just after news of
The April porkbellies,
It was Father Crowley
At the door,
And back in full black
Cassock. We marched
To St Patrick’s Cathedral
For early mass. They
Say the Chicago Bears’
Owner, coach, icon,
George Halas never
Missed the 7am there.
Usually didn’t help, but
You never know. We
Didn’t see him.
Then off to the inevitable
Chicago museums: Art
Institute. “Don’t fuckin’
Touch nothin’,” our
Advice from the guard.
The Museum of Science
And Industry: Impressively
Clean coal mine. Field
Museum: Natural History.
Bones. Lots of them.
Big stuffed Elephant.
On the Lake Michigan
Side of the Shedd
Aquarium, a bloated, headless
Body had washed up. A retching
Daily News photographer
Offered Stevie Krumtinger use
Of his Speed-Graphic, and
Five dollars to get the shot.
“Forget it, boys, it’s Chicago,”
Father Crowley counseling.
Corpse was a woman, we
Decided, first naked one
We’d ever seen. Drowned,
Yes, and headless, but still.
Time for a ride on the EL.
Speeding through the city,
One floor up, seeing things
And I remember the wicker
Seats, the soft silver gray
Leather of the Chicago
Drivers’ jackets. I didn’t
Know about my friends, but
I knew I’d be back. Eventually.
Upon entry I just saw white walls without furniture or furnishings
Next I went into a room where everywhere was covered with scrap paper
Paper was taped all over the walls as well as laying around on the floor
Among the papers there were childishly written words as if they were discarded writing lessons
Others had drawings and some were like many different adults' written letters, journals, or poetry ideas
In the middle it had a stairway that went to an upstairs
I took the stairway to find it led to a rather large white-walled bedroom
Then the room with two snow-white double beds turned out to be full of frighting “ghosts”
The smoke-like ghosts flickered and clacked as if coming out of a loud old movie projector
I frighteningly ran back down the stairs but slipped and fell
I fell upon a cloud of wadded scrap paper like I was in a big waste-paper basket
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
A few years ago going while going to the house of a friend outside Sacramento close to Thanksgiving Day
My Dad driving his Buick Century, with Mom along with him, accidentally hit a wild turkey
The turkey was instantly killed and left a dent in the front fender
Dad and Mom decided to pick up the bird’s carcass and put it in a sack they had in the trunk
And then tell a highway patrol cop they found it, so as to report the damage done to the car for insurance purposes
They would regret that, though, because the officer would not let them keep a “free” turkey to dress and eat
(I can bet that cop probably enjoyed having that turkey himself on his barbecue grill for Thanksgiving!)
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
As if you wandered that city by a creed
outworn and long forgotten, as if you walked
through the mud to get there and away
again. One more milestone of a student’s
novel-of-awakening. A beggar with one leg
crutched himself across the market square
where you dickered for field-lettuce and lentils.
The cathedral stood brusque and bare,
no matter its gargoyles—pagan goatlings,
fanciful creatures suckled in stone they seemed,
leering down from their gutterings. A year
can stretch a single winter fog as the spherical
moon passed month by month, never peering
down through cloud. The beggar lifting
his face toward that cathedral. As if
you might wake at night and feel the ache
of something gone; a limb, a year.
In this vast city, midway on our journey
from where to there, can we find
a patch of weedy grass where our dog might lift
his ritual praises to the earth?
Off freeway, behind gas pumps, a cheap motel,
a strip of unkempt green. And here’s
a traveler on two legs with his own tall dog.
The man recites to us an ode
to his dog unshaven as he is; tells us how
he came here, no wheels, no rent,
no door to welcome his dog, not even
the homeless shelter. Just this strip of ragged
green. All he needs, he carries
on his back and in his hand a clothesline leash
attached to everything that loves him.
He asked her to move to the left
just a smidge, to get
a better angle from his spot
on shore, a sweeter composition—
his beloved on the rock like a castle
above its moat, the river
running bright as tiger teeth,
as fast. She edged
to the left, open space—
then she was clutching toward
a flurry of air above rapids
as land fell away
from whatever his lens saw.
HEART OF THE FOREST
From asphalt parking through this building-
complex—walls ramps stairs corridors.
My dog stops to sniff, mapping a concrete
landscape as wind from the east
rushes over roofs, shoots passageways, eddies
in alcoves. I follow my dog who charts
scent-trails dispersing, fermenting leaves blown
from ornamentals. Out the other side, more
asphalt. A gap in chainlink fence;
vacant lot. Beyond. If the forest has a door,
it might be this scuff worn in dirt
through underbrush in the shelter of oaks—
a rough path over roots, a window open to sky.
FEEDING US ALL
winds are gathering,
oaks lift their branches, waiting—
rain will feed us all