Walking Elegy

after Stephen Vincent

Brilliant chilled Monday

Curving down the Purple Line to French class

Il y a le Hancock Building

Il y a les arbes avec leurs feuilles vertes et rouges

Reading Walking Theory thinking air and light 

So like San Francisco if light were elevation

Climbing sun towers glass a massive body of water

Feeling the edge of things land's end or muddy middle

Why I like this train is in the S's it describes

The black man in the pinstripe suit who is also reading poetry

The middle-aged white men in glasses looking at notebooks or screens or the window

The woman with tight curly hair bent listening to her red phone

The way we pass impossibly close to the bricked edges of buildings

I decide to get off at Merchandise Mart and wander out through the food court

Following an Exit sign through a succession of blank white doors

Industrial stairway down and a last door bearing a label

THIS DOOR IS UNLOCKED so we take for granted small freedoms 

Then down another blind corridor to double doors also unlocked

And into the blinding sunshine slip on my shades and go look at the river 

In time to see the architecture tour boat paddling past 

Then following the river eastward under the heavy Argos-eyed Mart

Passing the heads of capitalists arranged on pylons like pikes

AARON MONTGOMERY WARD 1844-1913

EDWARD A. FILENE 1860-1937

GEORGE HUNTINGTON HARTFORD 1833-1917

(George with his pointed beard looks a little like Lenin seen from below)

JOHN WANAMAKER 1838-1922

THE MERCHANDISE MART HALL OF FAME

MARSHALL FIELD 1834-1906

(Marshall has a stiff mustache and wings combed into his hair)

FRANK WINFIELD WOOLWORTH 1852-1919

JULIUS ROSENWALD 1862-1932

GENERAL ROBERT E. WOOD 1879-1969

One thing we can say for sure of these men is they aren't alive 

Train thundering stately now over the Wells Street Bridge

Let's pause and study the water skinned with floating trash

A plastic bottle with cleaner water in it bobs drunkenly just at the surface

Green Starbucks straws, potato chip bag, sticks and what looks like a frisbee

Another tourist boat passes its vision calibrated upward 

Is what I write here predictable calculable from the influences of my past

Am I predetermined to see through soft Marxism that demonumentalizes my city

Vaguely tropical floral arrangements studding the bridge lurid dark pinks and oranges

May be a trick of my sunglasses which shade everything gray and green

I  am not too interested in the history but I do enjoy walking across bridges 

One thing this Chicago is in this moment is scarcely populous

There's a panhandler crouched on the south end with scarcely any passersby to panhandle

A very small person in sunglasses could be of any sex

I don't have any change I say to myself and linger with small irony

In and out of cold shade more people a firetruck wails across Clark Street

Closer to Marina City a place the Jetsons might have lived

Maybe they will someday weren't they from our future?

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People on their smoke breaks in a kind of terraced garden

Overviewing a gravel barge and an angled crane pointing to "55"

Black-eyed Susans eye me and these little violet cups

Even smaller I think that's heather a profusion of tiny trumpets 

What I don't know about flowers would fill a much much longer poem

Paper cup in the flower bed of you I know the species

Sun feels good the sky had only trace elements of cloud

Is this my place my time to shine my element my mind?

The river lumping with barges one has detached metal scoopers gigantic

Yellow and red like mustard and ketchup like blind mouths biting the surface

Under the corncobs now an impression of whiteness but they're really not white

Just open to the sky and curved like cellular biology

Suddenly under a tent they're setting for lunch at Smith & Wollensky

Where the Cajun Marinated Bone-In Rib Eye goes for 49 and the Butcher Burger for 13

Think I'm getting hungry and it's State Street so time to swing north

Curious inscription on the bridge house PRESENT BRIDGE BUILT IN 1949

"Present" is something persistent apparently capable of linking worlds

Now I'll see more foot traffic still thinking about that woman

I decided that she was a woman and I should have given her a buck

Since change has apparently no value the climate march in New York topped 400,000

That's a lot of pennies but still it seems like change for chumps

Given the stakes how can air still be crisp and delightful if impure

Bus kiosk Queen Latifah who is "Up Close and Personable"

Passing the Museum of Broadcast Communications pictures of Agnes Moorhead and Ira Glass

The rest have faces for radio the sun hasn't penetrated here

Passed by a bald man in his sixties in orange jeans blue sweater round sunglasses and white tufts of hair above his ears

I look like any asshole walking around tapping on his phone

Alley full of dumpsters young kerchiefed guy pacing with a cigarette

Two identical cubes across the street except one's a garage and one's made of brick

It seems like no one comes to the sidewalk anymore except as an excuse to smoke

Except for that woman in a black hijab crossing the street looking at her phone

White guy in a Bears shirt and madras shorts is really rocking his look

Better the young Asian man in a slim-cut suit and no necktie

There's the Hancock again its rabbit ears tuning in to the sky

Under onion domes of Bloomingdales like a deconsecrated Orthodox church

I think that after class I'll hike back down Michigan to the Art Institute

Visit my Sargent paintings and say farewell to Magritte

The REDHEAD Piano Bar Chili's Quartino Self Park Michael Anthony

Cop sauntering toward me wearing a backpack like a grade schooler

A couple in neutral colors holding hands as they cross Ontario

Here's a place with those woven chairs that make you think of a Paris cafe

But to return to inequality it seems these streets are pretty well scrubbed

Under towers of Erie a plumbing truck sticks its nose down into the sewers

Autocorrect wanted "seers" but I'm only skating on the surfaces

Of this Monday morning in Chicago September 22nd 2014

I think I know that guy no he's up and moved to New York

Put it on the blog where it has a chance of keeping company

Cadence of my eyes following State Street for mes devoirs

Holy Name Cathedral's receiving a touch-up on this day

From another reaching crane all of us two hands up harmlessly reaching 

Now in wild overcompensation I give five bucks to a man in a wheelchair 

Because how can I give him nothing when he asks while I'm writing a poem?

What any of us can do. This day is given to walking

Speaking French badly looking at paintings going home to my wife and daughter

As if what I love will remain, as if

"Your love will let you go on." No one here remembers California,

What Jack Spicer said.