The Collectors

It was a wet summer morning.  The early rains had saturated Murray Park’s grassless infield to the point where it would take half a day for the slow revealing sun to dry off the thin layer of mud and turn it into a thick humid haze that would linger above the field for the remainder of the day.  That is why we found ourselves in Billy Duffy’s garage that morning, the main door wide open and outside the rain having slowed to an annoying trickle, as we bickered amongst ourselves, swapping and trading whatever the hot commodity was at that moment.  As had been for the past half year, automobile stickers were the rage.  Among the most valuable were the iconic “STP” sticker, the Bardahl Man and a bad-ass Woody the Woodpecker type character who wore a mean scowl and had a cigar hanging out of his beak that somehow sold automobile mufflers.   The stickers were the main commodity at that moment but there were certainly other items that were bartered about.  Classic items like comic books and baseball cards were certainly present during any new fad and once there was even a group effort when we tried to collect different insects to make a bug zoo.  That lasted for about three days until the zoo inhabitants started to die off.  We ended up feeding the survivors to a large spider that we had caught and affectionately named Herman.  Herman lived like a king for about a week until we ran out of bugs and interest and then we released him back to wild where we had originally caught him, in the alley behind my house next to a large telephone pole where some weeds grew through the large cracks in the concrete.


and, the sign says, science

On a long morning walk, the only signs
I’ve read are sounds of woodpeckers drumming
beyond the line of sight beyond the range of light.

Now I stop on a shore where some private
function in public space has made crossing
rapids more treacherous than usual


O Magnum Mysterium

Everybody’s talking about coyotes in the park,
and it makes me smile at their patience —
two hundred years, more or less, I guess,
laying low before they move back into a place
they occupied until a wave of settlers unsettled it
for a while.

The Influentialists

The place was decorated like your grandma’s kitchen.  That was the point.  That’s why they called it “Granny’s Diner.”  As you forked into your soggy pancakes, you looked at all the Amish quilts hanging on the wall, all the flimsy wooden shelves holding antique windup toys and Norman Rockwell paintings, and found it hard to believe that you were willing to do it even here.  Not even this, the quaintest, most wholesome place in the entire city could stop you.

You looked at Max across from you.  He hung his head low over the table, shoveled his toast in under his eggs and lifted.  You watched his long, heavy-metal hair as it dangled over the slimy yellow yoke on his plate.  You sat right against the window.  The sun, spreading bright and thick through the glass, made you squint the entire meal.  Max finished chewing, dabbed the peach fuzz above his mouth with his napkin, and slid across the seat.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” he said.  “You know what to do.”


A Collision on Western Avenue

I met this girl at The Mutiny and we got shitfaced. I mean beyond balls-out fucking blitzed, downing shots of Jameson and sucking down those big-ass mugs of Old Style as tall as your face from chin to forehead. My ride took off. I’m not even sure how she got there. She said her name was Garbo and she was an actress. I told her I was a musician. But I was also just saying. Me and the guys had yet to play a show or really even practice much. The Routines, we called ourselves.   

Garbo and I were making out at the end of the bar when the lights went on for closing. I’m pretty sure she came there with her boyfriend. I think she may have mentioned that, but I may have missed it. He’d been her ride and left and now we were rubbing on each other underneath the bar when the lights flicked on and the respective barkeeps started hollering for all us to get the fuck out. The next thing I know we’re staggering on the sidewalk looking at cars zip past on Western while all the other motherfuckers cleared out of the bar too.


A Chicago January

Mister Hancock and his towering companions try in vain
To drum up sympathy for victims of the New Years’ smoking ban
The skyline is shoulders-to-ears, huddled together for warmth
Each sends a plume of cotton smoke more sideways than skyward
January is a conservative regime bent on reducing pedestrians
To suspicious glances from between endless folds of fleece
Even the neighborhood bars put on cheap windbreakers
And grits march up to the front line of everyone’s breakfast order


Immigrant Punks at Western and Devon

“It’s going to be a late dinner,” she announces at 2:20 a.m., cutting potatoes for curry.

Exchange and Peoria

How did the Back of the Yards lose its wonder?
There’s a bull’s head on a post.
I feel his ghost haunting me.
                     I feel haunted by the ghost

of every animal I’ve ever paid somebody off
to kill; the slaughterhouses are industrialized
assassinations. History backwards: Chicago’s skyscrapers
                     tumble into piles of bone.


The Ballroom Artists’ Commune

O Ballroom! I extol you!
Outside you, Burnham’s bridges
strangle up my native town. Inside—
Piano raucous rocking through the night!
And I survived
on a meager diet of paintchips
and our communal pinenut pudding.

It Waits: A Bronzeville Ode To Gentrification

It’s waiting

      in a lush repose



              waited on