Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chicago, 1959

Sometimes I wish I could have lived
someone else’s poem
and go back to Chicago to ride
the Ravenswood ‘L’ through landscapes
of dis-integrated streets with John Dickson,
or live in New York and watch Dorothy Blake
draw [another] long line of phlegm
[and] ooze it into the open bottle
on her school desk alongside Len Roberts’.

I could sing along in silence
while riding to Smithville Methodist church
with Stephen Dunn from New Jersey;
or pump the vibrato’s thin blade
and stir the molecules of sound
with Michael Collier in Phoenix, Arizona;
or even live in Williamsport, Pennsylvania
and play a game of sandlot baseball
in an empty lot, ringed by elms and fir
and honeysuckle with Gregory Djanikian.

But this is the poem I lived
a long time ago in the old neighborhood,
a place where we played ring-a-levio in gangways,
where alley rats were our only fear
lurking in dark corners of cold-water flats
while we played on past nine o’clock,
and lovers embraced in dark passageways
outside unlocked doors throughout the night.

It was a time when little boys
in Davy Crockett hats
imagined they were defending the Alamo,
and little girls in strapped-on roller skates rolled along
treeless sidewalks while we played fast pitch
against a lit-up humming factory wall
far beneath six thousand city stars
without ozone, kidnapping or terrorists’ alerts.

It was a place where teen-age gals,
wrapped in poodle skirts, bobby socks
and Angora sweaters, danced with guys
with Brylcreem-slicked hair,
who snapped their fingers
to I Only Have Eyes for You
while doo-wopping around Chevy convertibles
with fuzzy dice and Bobby loves Sharon
air brushed on both sides.

It was also the first time in forty years
since the White Sox played in the World Series,
and for eight days Chicago forgot
America was at the helm of the world
with Dwight D. Eisenhower,
that rock ‘n’ roll was just four years old,
and Chryslers and Cadillacs sported wings
for tail lights.

For one week we didn’t care
about Gidget and Little Joe, and two monkeys
hurling through space over Illinois, New York,
New Jersey, Arizona, and Pennsylvania,
and the rest of the forty-five states
when Dinah Shore launched good-night kisses
to us all under the mid-September, Soviet moon. 

“Chicago, 1959” was originally published by Lake Shore Publishing with a different title.

1 comment:

  1. P.S.

    The White Sox clinched the American League pennant on September 22, 1959. It was the only time the air raid sirens went off in Chicago, and it certainly frightened a lot of people.