December 17, 2011

Damen Stop


Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
     so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
--Carl Sandburg--

A rickety ride
on a the Blue Line to Bucktown.
Snow falling on the city as we grind up the self-imposed hill
as the train goes from subway to elevated
and the city opens up down below both windows:
small wooden decks with neglected grills,
graffiti only a commuter will see
and no eye contact,
head phones,
small quiet conversations,
people concentrating on books
as each stop is announced
and suddenly its Damen--my stop.

Platform made of steel,
covered in creaky weathered wood
with grey snow pushed up into corners
and the crowd steps off the train into weather,
windy, wet, wintry weather
and we wind our way around an equal number getting on
and we march in asyncopation,
bottled up behind a big, lumbering black woman,
carrying too many bags to make these slip-steel steps
something navigated haphazardly.
She slips...
and the air from the rush hour commuters withdraw in one long, uniform gasp.
No one,
no one steps around or over,
even people down below her stop and crane their necks to check-in.
"Are you okay?"
comes a muted question from someone on the Damen stairs.
She mumbles, then lumbers up,
with the help of some stranger  as he helps her down the steps.

Chicago...Carl Sandburg calls you the "City of Big Shoulders,"
and today you showed me why.


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