Photo 1 - Shad Pipes
by Steve Bogdaniec

We live with manmade beauties
combined majestic standing above us
with their shadow light trails on the lake
world class models
gorgeous and overpowering
delicate features from far away
steel cheekbones perfect skin white lights
compelling blues and red and yellows
and up close, the kind of magnificence
that you cannot help but tilt your head and just
stare at

so outrageously beautiful
that often we take them granted
or try to deny their beauty outright
too tall too skinny too bright loud flashy
too accessible for the millions who live here
and millions more tourists
too familiar, too much to ever really process
so we shy away

but when we needed a backdrop
somewhere pretty to stand in front of
our models were available as always

Photo 1 was shot on the lakefront by the Adler Planetarium
looking back northwest at Chicago’s skyline
our photog stood us seven feet from the “no diving” stencil on the lake’s edge
he posed us facing him squarely
feet spread
like conquerors staking our claim on the land
but only an idiot would look at the picture
and believe we were any threat at all
anything other than an afterthought
to the immensity glowing behind us

Photo 2 was taken in front of Cloud Gate
or as anyone who has ever actually seen it knows it,
The Bean
a giant stainless steel kidney bean sculpture
reflecting everything along its curved surface:
clouds, tourists’ faces, our backs, us pulled close,
Sondra’s hand on my chest,
our photog and his camera and light stand tripods
the yellow streetlights of Michigan Avenue,
and again, the models in the background,
fewer this time, but more immediate, more imposing
distorted curved at the edges

the Crain Communications Building steals that picture
not the tallest model there
but the loveliest
its diamond-shaped face
outlined in bright baby blue neon
directly over my head in the shot

Sondra and I needed a backdrop to pose against
a couple of nice spots for nice engagement photos
instead, we found ourselves posing with professionals
who completely overshadowed us
Photo 2 - Shad Pipes
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I intended this as a tribute to gorgeous, imposing, wonderfully complicated Chicago, my hometown. As a typical Chicagoan would, I wrote the tribute as backhandedly as possible. In my mind, the pictures I took with Sondra Malling—my fiancée—are beautiful reminders both of our city and our coming marriage. This poem, however, is about my very slight annoyance that when I look at the pictures, I can’t stop looking at the skyline instead of us.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College in Chicago. Steve has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, most recently Blood Lotus, Silver Birch Press, and One Sentence Poems. Follow him on Twitter! Just kidding—he never posts anything there anyway.

PHOTOGRAPH: The photographs were very ably taken by Shad Pipes on a warm night—for December, anyway—in late 2014. The photographs are used with his kind permission. For more information on Shad’s work, please visit