Chicago might have smelled like cinnamon and chocolate.
At Lincoln Hall, I waited in line.
Wind rolled cold waters.
Love escaped to smoke a cigarette.
Waves of patrons sailed along the sidewalk,
broke on the corner, and wrapped
around the building.
I could hear the sound of rocks
beating a nearby dumpster,
already bloodshot with rust.
Behind me on the wall
someone had written:
Fire from the Lord burns among you.
An interesting sentiment. Was it true?
My eyes disappeared into my hands.
I rubbed my face. My mind shipwrecked,
sinking to the bottom of Lake Michigan,
thoughts submerged like the L.R. Doty,
a steamship sitting perfectly preserved
for one-hundred and twelve years.
She was a ship carrying a cargo of corn
into a violent gale of sleet, snow
heavy winds and hefty waves.
A three-hundred-foot behemoth,
pulled to the lakebed
by its own steel arches.
The whole crew was lost under the same
pumpkin-shaped sliver of moon
that reminded me it was October.
Love returned a few cigarettes later,
her tiny frame shaking inside
a black sweatshirt.
I was tempted to offer my coat,
or suck the nicotine off her lips.
Instead, I ignored the need for a fix.
I wanted to listen to her chest beating
as her body went numb, limp beneath
I wanted to find myself between
her breasts or tattooed thighs,
damp with sweat.
Soft, uncalloused heels locking
behind my head, breathing cautiously
or forgetting to breathe at all.
We were transfixed with the illusion
talk provided. She wasn't in love
with the idea of marriage,
she was married to the idea of love.
Outside, you could hear the
bass guitar rumbling. I could feel
the kick-drum inside my chest.
The ninety-eight-year-old building's pulse raced.
Tired feet ignited with shuffling,
footsteps pounding the pavement to the doors.
People hustling inside to hear
the stir of the stagehands
sound checking the instruments.
Urban congestion glistened in a nearby puddle.
It was raining.
Peopled staggered towards the stage from the bar,
fumbling in their pockets for a tip.
Slowly the venue filled.
Months prior, the building had been dust-covered,
construction workers welding,
sawing, hammering towards reopening.
It's roof was the place where sharpshooters stood
to prevent John Dilinger
from escaping the Biograph Theater.
Somehow, it felt like Dillinger's night turned out
better than mine. His had a conclusion.
I imagine Chicago felt spacious then,
a lifetime ago when you could still tell north from south.
I looked across the street to the red pressed brick
and white-glazed terra cotta of the Biograph,
trying to remember what Dillinger had seen that night.
I wonder what he thought of the ending.
After the gun-smoke cleared, did he crawl
towards the lake through the blood, inching for
one last taste of water?
Tonight the absence of responsibility hung in the air.
It had been a good year.
Soon everything would turn to shit.
It was the year the church paid
to tune the baby grand.
A hand-of-God moment.
Life felt close at hand,
a lap piano for the bed-ridden.
Next year we'd return, reminiscing
over spiced lattes. Reminding ourselves
what remained the same.
We still used gasoline in our vehicles,
solvents to clean the floors.
We understood: absorption
comes through the eyes, the skin.
Ingestion, caused by swallowing.
Steel mills still painted the sunset with pollution.