A Chicago Day, Long Ago

Max Berkovitz

The pulsating song

Of the urban prairie,

Vacant lots

With untended gardens

Of ragweed

And stunted sunflower,

Where pastel butterflies


In the noon sun

On beds of purple thistle.


Sunset stillness


With each

Steam locomotive call,

The long scream of 

Sky cloth ripped to the horizon,

Fading swiftly like

A lost kite,


And whispering

At the edge of a circle.


On top

Of the gas tower.

A beacon twirls its

Filmy baton

Into the night.


Geometric life

Inside the pool hall.

Coned lighting

For thick white planes

Of cigarette smoke

Framing players

Surveying angles

For their next shot.

The cue ball slams

A racked triangle

And the flash opening

Of the closed fist

Drives multi-colored Circles

Over green felt.


On the way home

Rectangles of light

In apartment buildings

Marking cells of security,

Snug confinement,

Underlining the thrill of movement,

The excitement of strange shadows

In dark streets

And the magic

Of squinted eyes

Turning street lights

Into pale golden cat whiskers.



Into sleep,

As the wind

Plays ancient lullabies

On poplar leaves.