Poem by Stuart Dybek

It’s the metallic hour

When birds lose perfect pitch

On a porch, three stories up,

against a copper window

facing the El,

a woman in a satin slip, 

and the geraniums she waters,

turn gold.


Beneath the street the blue clapper

of a switch swings in the tunnel.

Blocks away, a crescendo overtakes

its echo, and the reverberation

is passed between strangers.

Shadows quiver like sheet metal.

High heels pace off down a platform

like one hand on a piano.


There’s a note struck every evening–

every evening held longer–

a clang only because it’s surrounded by silence,

chimes of small change

from the newsstand, trousers

full of keys and dimes

flopped on a chair beside the bed,

the tink of bracelets

as her arm sweeps back her hair.

PHOTO: “Porch at Sunset, Chicago, 2006” by Jim Luepke, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED