From ‘Where the Suburb Dams the City’


My parents minted their love in the mountains
got coaxed back by relatives who lied about dying instead of just saying “I miss you”—
they were chosen by you, Chicago. To be under the tax of your county but not
the history of its street names. I know it gets hard to discern pay grade
from fate, I know it’s too bitter to consider them the same. Made me learn your trains
are braver than your statesmen, running with every class,
overworked and underfunded, like your bloodlines go where only your wish can reach.
And where one of your Blues ended always sounded like a question,
between 22’s and Kings, from my 2nd floor Cicero porch, all my friends
answered the ramblings you left on the bellies of ethanol tanks screeching
through our town, traffic stopped like a public service announcement in
another language, like we ought to stare at how the wonder of money
shoulders the opiate of progress, it’s ladders clutched around a stomach
sick or cold or smuggling something.


I have met the men who obscure into your factories,
exiles in your quarries: they risk the strangle if you decide to embrace.
They know what could become of them if you dissolved into your rivers.
They would be left to choose what is beautiful without you manufacturing pretty,
there would be no opportunity for a man who’s craft is only a scaffold,
pulley, tuck-point: if they call you by what you do you’d be “under renovation,
new ownership, forever” or duress, or the weather you brew
blooming artists and restorers who’re not sure they ever finished a piece.
When you say you’re never scared
does that mean you were once scared of everything, Chicago?
That any dream that hits your plexi-glass comes back in Technicolor,
even the evil ones? Everyone in you knows we are past decay:
we are wondering if we’re resurrecting or rotting. I know your borders
will never take my town back—that you spent all your acoustics on venues
and saved little for your district courts,but do you tenement your struggle
and two-flat your middle class as some act of leveling the horizon?
Do you keep your ghetto in exile and call it mercy
to allow identification with Israelites and wonder at why a church
on every block don’t mean a kingdoms come?
Condos as ownership of sky because the land is spoken for,
deep down to its parking spaces?


Or are you just what we’ve always been when we gather around these ports,
braving parasites of trade to hope one carries the gold inside prosperity
not of ambition, but wisdom? Did you hope too that our synthesis wouldn’t mean syncretism?
That cardinal direction wouldn’t play legend for socio-economic or moral state,
graduation or mortality rate?
O greed, you reload the documentaries with facts
you’ve already engineered out weakness to.
Doesn’t matter if it’s State & Madison: no one knows where you’re taking them.
But you’re lost too aren’t you? Curled up at the ankle of this lake
wondering what you’d have been like raised next to alps.
Quotient of haphazard by providence, on the spokes of echelon and erudition,
You are accident divided by miracle, titan by way of murder, like all the old kingdom
but it’s no accident your roads against your chest
look like fence link. You’ve fortified yourself
with city like your impenetrable citizens—
you packed cart on the train of America whose silence is a coin flip,
fearlessness or fear, whose IPod I should’ve stole, who never looks me in the eye.
Those who think belief in God makes you beg response from inanimate objects
never lived in the apartment next to you, hoping to hold the door open
when you’re swamped with groceries because you nodded in the hallway
with that look like you’re the guy I’ll come to when I get locked out,
like you’ve asked me before but can’t remember my name.

—Michael Garza

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