She Stood There Crying

It was 1AM and they had just made love on the brown futon in the living room. It was late but still loud from the trucks rumbling up Ashland Ave. and the fan they’d pointed at themselves. When they were done they slowed down and their minds came back to them they lay together, holding each other, feeling the sweat that made the sheets cling to their backs, staring at each other’s face in the streetlight that made its way through the blinds.

“I love you,” she said, smiling.

“I love you too,” he said. He smiled too, and looked down to the condom still on him. “I’m gonna go take this off,” he said, and kissed her.


A Laundromat on California Avenue

Given the Garden of Eden
Inside a laundromat,
Shirts spun floral colors
And, contented, hummed.

Beyond the vine-coarse windows
Wound through with light,
Greystones grind their teeth
Against the next cascade.


When Pilsen Was 18

You were there playing
Hockey in its streets
Countless winter days
Thinking like a Blackhawk
And swinging your crude
Stick hard–like a pro
In the steely gray
Ice-covered asphalt.

You were there when spring
Arrived dressed in green
With a florid face
And you happily
For a fresh game
Of Chicago-style
Softball at Dvorak
Park and held your breath
Expecting your friends
(And a certain girl
You fell for) to show.


Blue Island Avenue

The all-night taco stand simmers in the

midnight heat. The unsaid social group meets again

for yet another round of comradeship and slurred

serenades to themselves. Before stepping out the

door to the Street of Oblivion, they order one

more taco de sesos for the road, in a last-ditch

attempt to access higher levels of intelligence.


Common Brunch, Kedzie & Milwaukee, December 2012: Streamed

An intentionally modest storefront with an army of calla lily-filled matte white porcelain vases lines the window because calla lilies are the new hydrangeas are the new daisies and a “vintage-style” neon script light over the door displays a single word because single word-named brunch restaurants are the new ampersand-named restaurants

and those motherfucking Yelp reviewers neglected to mention that this place is community-style seating and please don’t sit me next to that waif sparrow woman with the oxblood cloche and matching infinity scarf

and I am seated next to her and her skin smells like calla lilies because calla lilies are the new hydrangeas and a tall urban-mulleted waitress with ear plugs resembling deer antlers is pushing a tea-stained paper menu into my hands and “The special this morning was oyster-braised French Toast but we have SOLD OUT” she says pointedly and Oxblood Cloche moans as though impaled with disappointment


Caminos de Michoacán

I found you in a bar

that feels like Mexico in the early 90s

the bar where everyone’s dad

used to get fucked up,

my friend Genesis would say.

It’s a space idle and frozen in time,

stuck between the U.S. border and gentrification,

the kind of bar I imagine my father’s father sitting in

drunk on communism and tequila.


Walks in Northeast Central Hyde Park

From walks in April & May 2012

On one of my occasional walks down 58th Street from University Avenue as I was passing between the celebrated Robie House and the sometimes maligned Charles M. Harper Center on Woodlawn Avenue, I saw a couple in their late 20s on parallel audio walking tours. They stood dumbly on some northern steps of the Harper Center, headphones over their ears, staring across the street at Frank Lloyd Wright’s best known Hyde Park building.

I am not sure what that tour would have told them about. The building’s architectural features? The architect? His philosophy of architecture? The Robie House is certainly worth seeing, but I wonder if their walking tours pointed out the three modernist pieces a block away, on 58th and Kimbark. The first blockish, purple one looks like it could be a garage or community gymnasium. It has an odd feature on the 58th Street face: a concrete and pipe mimicry of a Palladian double-ended stairway to a raised first level. This is striking, since modernist works usually eschew such skeuomorphism and loyalty to historic motifs.


Diversity My Eye

Concrete contractors impress the pavement of Chicago
with the year of the pour:
The characteristics of the changing technique,
the nature and nationalities of the work,
the stone and sweat,
the rise and fall of everything,
all are there to see
whenever we walk

There’s Carol,
born in the ’40s, when the pavement was still pebbled
brought up in Marina City South
daughter of a labor leader.
Now, her father had a great job.
She’s busy at her treadle
in venerated Hyde Park
where we whites can muse on past accomplishments
while present conditions for browns stand stock-still
a mere block or two outside the periphery
of this great University
just outside her door



The streetlamp smashes against itself, something in the wiring gone frayed.  It goes clickclickclick and then thud, but irregular and arrhythmic, a shock every time.  The light itself doesn’t waver; steady and straight, the beams cast the soil like tundra in harsh grey light, next to a car’s scratched up bodywork.  The wind howls.  Somewhere a car beeps softly.  The wind howls.

A kid’s footsteps light up the silence of the street.  They are intermingled in the wail of the air and the thud of the light, so that there exists at turns a three-part melody: thud, clap, whoosh.  Stone, draft, click.

It has just turned dark, and a faint aura of purple and orange hangs limply on the horizon, waiting to be extinguished by the racing hand of the moon.  Cars still rush by but the flurry of great activity has hushed now.  Lights are going on or already lit in living rooms, and the beams of those habitations creep out through tremulous windows and give witness to goings-on inside, where shadows move and mingle.


Not Here, No Way

Vignette One

She walked south toward the church and cast a shadow across the street in the low sun. It was a beautiful fall day. The leaves had just barely begun to show tinges of yellow and red and glowed.

The church was almost a mile from her apartment, but her bike was broken and driving seemed absurd, so she walked. Her backpack was felt unusually heavy. After fifteen minutes in the surprisingly hot sun, she started to sweat a little. She unzipped her jacket to cool off.

Down the road, through the stone gates on campus, past the others in their jackets wearing their backpacks also surprised by the heat of the late afternoon, she kept walking. On the way her mind raced through the meeting’s agenda and she didn’t hear the chatter of the other pedestrians or notice the stop signs and walk signs she passed. She walked on autopilot.

When she passed the last gate and left the stone fortress she came to the park that butted up to it on the south side. The park was bisected by two multilane streets, and was now lined with yellow tape and temporary chain fences.

Here she slowed a bit to take in the construction. Crews on all the north-south sidewalks had cut them off from the road and were erecting giant pillars of glass. They were supposed to be lights, she’d heard. To make people feel safer going south. She looked up at them and smirked at the thought–giant glowing phalluses for security.