Grid Lines

Overheard In Chicago

When our apartment gets quiet at night
We can hear the neighborhood

When the neighborhood gets quiet
We can hear the city

The city’s always-on hum
Like white noise, but not as clean

Cars and sirens blow like trumpets
Over the bass of always-on hum

In the morning birds do their part
Offering something organic to the machine

Grid Lines

Spokes shoot out of a northwestern wheel.
They have names I like to pronounce:
Grand,
Milwaukee,
Elston,
Lincoln,
Clark.

Native paths well beaten
Once upon a time
To an inland sea.
Now the river is reversed
And our favored routes
Crisscrossed in concrete
By: Western,
Damen,
Ashland,
Montrose,
Lawrence, and
Foster.

Six-spoked super crossings
Hold traffic like a strainer
Over a sink.
I drain the clogs
North and west
Past the shops,
Into the trees and fields
Close by,
Right underneath.

I consider how far I might go.
All the way
To Madison,
To Montana,
To Bellingham,
Alaska, and
The Russian Far East.
A salmon will swim.

Martin Died

The paper stopped coming
And the ashtrays grew full
That’s how we took notice
Of this man’s passing

He was our neighbor
Upstairs, to the left
He lived for thirty years
In this building
He said he should have bought it
Years ago, a time
When he presumably
Could have afforded it

Martin was a warrior
With fifty years of pain
From Korea left lingering
But he was young too
With fight still in him
He got up everyday before dawn
And delivered the paper
From the outside step
To our door
A gesture of neighborliness
From a time gone by

Martin also had guns
And a police scanner
And a watchful eye
He reported to me that the place
Directly across the street
Was broken in to, basement level
Window left unlocked
In Martin’s windows flags drape
Little American flags

We made him cookies for Christmas
Left them outside his door
In the night, like Santa
He never mentioned it
No matter
It was understood
Martin liked things understood
Now I understand his small favors
Were noble ways of saying
“I’m here today,” alive
Running hard against
The loud, pulsing current

©2004-05 David Burn

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