Something like a cathedral emerges
from the cruciform shape of Chicago’s
Lake Street intersecting LaSalle
beneath the girdered vault of elevated
tracks. This autumn you are everywhere:
black-clad behind a Macy’s counter,
small figure pacing Loyola Beach,
channeled through the painter’s voice
at the artists’ colony. Even the wind
sweeps you in, specter-like, to climb
the stairs with me, to board
another “L” train, to travel home.
No one steps aside or lifts their eyes
as we fill vacant seats near doors
that press their thin lips shut, shut out
the violent sounds of our city.
A woman sends words through the air,
hollow of her lips forming o of thou
and a of any, forming a passage
in Exodus. Thou shalt not make…
any graven image…of any thing…
in heaven above…in the earth beneath, or…
in the water under the earth. Sunlight
splinters through train windows.
Why do you come back?
Downtown’s rush and swell gives way
to aging ballpark, live-in hotels, Asian
markets, burned-out buildings.
Why did you leave me?
There must be more out there
than aching, things that are easier
than desire or addiction, something
more like constant revelation.
A man exits my train at Southport.
He does not see me. I do not see him
fully, just the smallness of his back
sagging with unseen weight.
I imagine him squinting his eyes
as he walks the avenue’s stretch
of sidewalk to the theater marquee,
that dark house of visions he wants
to enter, to escape the sunlight
now fracturing everything.
Someone is following me. Or I am
going mad. Maybe madness makes
our strongest beliefs visible. I want
to believe you are always with me.
But I need the salvation of shaking
loose my darkest deep convictions,
the ones that tighten their grip
in the wake of each loss,
each shattered illusion. These hours
merge. These trains I ride always lurch
and move, re-circle their loops,
follow iron courses, rusted sameness.
You are right to think I fear the dark
within me. That hollow I know.
Why always this searching?
Early evening, I arrive at a stopping point,
perfect place, right spot. A world,
other than this, where interior takes over.
I see you slumped against a wall outside
my train stop. You speak to air,
no one listening. When you come back
there is no snap, shizam,
or abracadabra. No hocus pocus,
blink of genie eyes. It is fluid
the lapse of time between your departure
and arrival. You have perfected
the art of living in shifting worlds.
There is longing in the air, and the eyes
of everyone I see seem to say, Desire.
Words swell within me. I want to shout:
Listen, we are water and heaven.
I have conjured you toward a purpose.
You must lead me through. The sun now
is blushing as it has through time, distant
clouds gathering to cradle its setting.
Show me what will come to fill the gaps
inside. Once, before you leave for good,
tell me what action can make the light
expel immovable darkness.