Archives for posts with tag: Chicago

Summer sun shining through the canopy, ecology background
Under the Arch of Elms
by Marilyn Zelke-Windau

The breeze would float elm leaves
like the little oval pancakes
we hoped for each Saturday morning
venturing out on a heat buttered griddle.

We’d lie on the grass in the front yard,
count as many as we knew numbers,
think of the serrated knife,
the bread knife,
try to slice pebbles
with elm leaves.

Summer heat trapped the upstairs
of a Chicago bungalow,
made us tired-cry
to sleep out under the arch
of elms.

We pedaled trikes, bikes
in their safe tunnel,
played hopscotch,
four-square, concentration
in the street
of their protection.

Summer green to fall yellow,
we blanketed our dollies
with elm warmth.
November gone, March emerged.
We followed their pattern
and grew, too.

I packed a suitcase
within their shadows,
moved my childhood to the suburbs,
heard they were ill.
Their dying did not open the sky.
Their dying did not open their limb-arms.
Their dying only offered emptiness, youth gone,
a grave under the arch of my elms.

PHOTO: “Elm leaves” by ST8, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Traveling back to a childhood home, on a street now empty of trees, was like going to a funeral. Gone were the beautiful elms of my childhood, their lives taken by Dutch elm disease. Gone also was my youth, but not my memories of it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Zelke-Windau is a Wisconsin poet and a former elementary school art teacher. She enjoys painting with words. Her poems have appeared in many printed and online venues including Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat, Your Daily Poem, Midwest Prairie Review, and several anthologies. Her chapbook Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press) and a full-length manuscript, Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press), were both published in 2014. She adds her maiden name when she writes to honor her father, who was also a writer.

north avenue beach
A Lake Michigan Swim
by Tina Hacker

Chicago summers vaporized saliva
so even speaking was painful.
Tourists raved about the skyline,
rows of yachts lazing in the harbors.
But kids knew the lake
was the true attraction, fun and relief
in one package whose ends were open,
spilling thrills.

Bone-chilling waves roared out
like a siren to children being slathered
with sunscreen at the sandy edge.
A few raced in, ducked under,
pretended the water didn’t stab them.
Most approached baby step by baby step,
made genuflecting dips, kneeled to thighs,
then waist, then dove under, exulting
as their bodies embraced the cold.
Hands waved; legs leapt into sky;
imaginations spun bodies
into dolphins, mermaids, great white sharks.

After 40 minutes, parents on shore called,
“Time to come in.” Were ignored.
”Just ten minutes more.”
Wrapped in towels like burritos,
the kids’ lips
wore blue corn smiles.

SOURCE: Previously published in Imagination & Place: Weather.

IMAGE: Vintage postcard of North Avenue Beach, Chicago, Illinois.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and spent many days swimming in Lake Michigan. I don’t know how I did it. That water is beyond cold even at the height of summer. It wasn’t until my family took a weekend trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, that I found out that some lakes have warm water. You don’t have to freeze at the beach!

Tina at Magic Flute

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Hacker is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in a wide variety of journals, both online and paper. Her full-length poetry book, Listening to Night Whistles, , published by Aldrich Press and her chapbook,Cutting It, published by The Lives You Touch Publications are available on Amazon. Since 1976, she has edited poetry for Veterans’ Voices, a magazine of writing by veterans across the country. This year she was given the honor of being a 2016 Muse of The Writers Place in Kansas City.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Tina Hacker posing behind a cutout at a performance ofThe Magic Flute.

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

by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

SOURCE: “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg first appeared in Poetry (March 1914).

IMAGE: Poet Carl Sandburg visits a Chicago construction site, photograph by Leonard Bass (1957).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, two for poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.

The Gate Was Open

IMAGE: The Gate Is Open,” photograph by John T. Langfeld (12/17/2014).

ABOUT THE IMAGE: “Cloud Gate” (aka “The Bean”) is a public sculpture by Anish Kapoor, and is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois. The work reflects and distorts the city’s skyline.Visitors to the Park can walk around and under this work. It measures 33 x 66 x 42 feet. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams. “Cloud Gate” was dedicated May 15, 2006.

jtl 2011 Santa Fe

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: A native of Minnesota, John T. Langfeld received a B.S. in Music Education from St. Cloud State University in Instrumental and Vocal Music and continued on to the University of Wisconsin/Madison for a M.M. and Ph.D. work (ABD) in Musicology. In addition, he studied aesthetic education and metacognition at Northwestern University (also ABD) with Benjamin Bloom and Bennett Reimer. Langfeld has written for “juried” journals and is a published poet. Visit him at His photography is represented by

Gregory_Lafferty Chicago Rain Ghazal
by David Mathews

. . . water in my hands becomes a reverence in the rain.

Rafiq Kathwari

 At the Art Institute, I have listened to the outside rain.
Inside, I see Caillebotte’s Paris street in the rain.

In Hyde Park, where I used to work, the side streets,
with so many trees, made it hard to get wet in the rain.

On Devon Avenue, I have pretended to be in Kashmir.
But how can I forget the smells and rhythms of Chicago rain?

Once, in Uptown, after Vietnamese spring rolls and spicy soup,
Why is it such an affair to kiss under an umbrella in her rain?

Chicago is an ocean—every neighborhood a different port.
One knows the same songs she whispers bathing in the rain.

In Andersonville, outside a Swedish diner, I take a break from my ghazal.
What is my obsession with smoking in the rain?

David, I say to myself, while exhaling, What’s next?
The passing Clark Street bus splashes, like a ship leaving in the rain.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Fellow poet Shadab Zeest Hashmi taught me that the ghazal form is about “The Beloved,” which for me is Chicago. I write a lot about my hometown, in the face of gentrification, because of my need to document the melting pot I know before it becomes milk toast.

IMAGE: “Lionsgate” (outside The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Avenue) by Gregory Lafferty. Prints available at


David Mathews earned his MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University, where he studied under Richard Jones. Recently, his work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, After Hours, Midwestern Gothic, CHEAP POP, OMNI Reboot, One Sentence Poems, and Word Riot. A lifelong Chicagoan, he teaches at Wright College and College of Lake County.

Concrete and other measures of a neighborhood
by Patrick T. Reardon

Let me tell you about my neighborhood.
Like any neighborhood. Like yours.

In the curb, in the cement: “David 11/29/86.”
Our son, the date the city of Chicago workers poured the concrete for the curb.
He was a year old. I used my car key.

Nanay — “mother” in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.
A grandmother already of her own family, a block away,
caring for grandchildren.
Cared for David and later Sarah when we were at work.
Became their grandmother — their Nanay.

A neighborhood of Koreans and Vietnamese,
Irish, Germans, Poles, Serbians, Croatians, Italians and Romanians,
Asian Indians and American Indians,
African-Americans and Africans from Africa,
Mexicans and Guatemalans and Columbians and Haitians
and Nicaraguans and Cubans and Peruvians,
Chinese, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Assyrians, Russians and…

A neighborhood of Coca Cola factory workers
and ex-priests and nursing home inspectors
and building janitors and busboys and cab drivers
and judges and crossing guards and engineers
and actors and chefs and cops and secretaries
and musicians and teachers and mechanics
and drug store workers and social workers
and waiters and…

The Major and Wally,
Lawrence and Louie, Rudy and Feli,
the house where a suicide may have occurred,
the backyard with tomato plants where David’s bicycle
was stolen by a United Nations of three 11-year-old robbers,
the townhouse where Sarah’s friend Rowena lived,
the way she pronounced “Rowena,”
the gentle slope up to Ridge Avenue,
the alleys,
the streets,
the curbs,
the sidewalks.

The precinct captain comes at election time.
Our garbage is collected. Our snow-filled streets are plowed.
Vote Democratic.

On the sidewalk along our porch, in the concrete:
“Sarah 5-6-92.”

IMAGE: Statue of young Abraham Lincoln, Senn Park, Edgewater Neighborhood, Chicago, Illinois, by Charles Keck (1945), installed in 1997.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by an essay I wrote in the Chicago Tribune in 1992, which can be seen here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a lifelong Chicagoan, was a Chicago Tribune reporter for 32 years. An essayist and poet, he is the author of five books. He is writing a book about the Chicago Loop. His website is



by Stuart Dybek

I remember, though I might have dreamed it, a radio show I listened to when we lived on Eighteenth Street above the taxidermist. It was a program in which kids phoned the station and reported something they’d lost – a code ring, a cap gun, a ball, a doll – always their favorite. And worse than lost toys, pets, not just dogs and cats, but hamsters, parakeets, dime store turtles with painted shells…

Magically, by the end of the program, everything would be found. I still don’t know how they accomplished this, and recall wondering if it would work to phone in and report something I’d always wanted as missing. For it seemed to me then that something one always wanted, but never had, was his all the same, and wasn’t it lost?

SOURCE: Excerpted from The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek, available at

IMAGE: St. Anthony, finder of lost things.

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.

SOURCE: Poetry (December 1986)

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



by Stuart Dybek

In summer, waiting for night, we’d pose against the afterglow on corners, watching traffic cruise through the neighborhood. Sometimes, a car would go by without its headlights on and we’d all yell, “Lights!”

“Lights!” we’d keep yelling until the beams flashed on. It was usually immediate—the driver honking back thanks, or flinching embarrassed behind the steering wheel, or gunning past, and we’d see his red taillights blink on.

But there were times—who knows why?—when drunk or high, stubborn, or simply lost in that glide to somewhere else, the driver just kept driving in the dark, and all down the block we’d hear yelling from doorways and storefronts, front steps, and other corners, voices winking on like fireflies: “Lights! Your lights! Hey, lights!”

SOURCE: The Coast of Chicago: Stories by Stuart Dybek, available at

PHOTO: Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, where Stuart Dybek grew up and where many of his stories are set. Photo by Eddie Railway.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stuart Dybek is the author of three books of fiction: I Sailed With Magellan, The Coast of Chicago, and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Dybek has also published two collections of poetry: Streets in Their Own Ink and Brass Knuckles. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Poetry, Tin House, and many other magazines, and have been widely anthologized, including work in both Best American Fiction and Best American Poetry. Among Dybek’s numerous awards are a PEN/Malamud Prize “for distinguished achievement in the short story,” a Lannan Award, a Whiting Writers Award, an Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, several O.Henry Prizes, and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2007 Dybek was awarded the a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.