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

But the same frigid breath that turns sidewalks to skating rinks
And sprouts icicles from the heads of the hairdryer-deprived
Can’t keep this town inside, Chicago shakes its head and scoffs
The lakefront path stays sprinkled with stubborn winter athletes
Who believe enough layers make single digits perfect weather for a run
And the only hill you can get to without going through O’Hare
Becomes a magnet for marshmallow plumped snowsuits on sleds
That might have a child inside them, somewhere

When Sandburg dared anyone to point out another city
Singing as loudly of its pride to be so alive and so strong
I think he meant the rebuke one silver-haired man tossed
At a question from a more typically tropical retiree
On why he chose to live in the place that invented the wind chill
‘It’s not so bad. You just gotta look the cold in the face and go, FUCK YOU!’
By some strange masochism that’s how I know I belong here
Well, at least all of me except for my extremities