chicago, Looking out, non-fiction, Poems, poetry
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Of Hell & High-Rises

There are no words to explain that alone feeling I get when sitting outside on my steps looking unto the alleyways in the bleak-half darkness, the lights of the city combating that of the moon’s own glow.

Stray cats run and meow, meow, in fights and dart across the landings, their shadows cast in a higher statue than they’d ever be in day. I watch the smoke rise high from my fingers, I breathe in and out the cold. An ambulance leeches by, and bums lurk seeking shelter under the rooftops that I silently watch them from, taking it all in.

Rustic, pissed on grandeur.

Cables cross like Hindu lines of ancient texts across the sky; old sneakers dangle from them like youthful suicide. A Ford Focus lurches in front, her headlights menacing, break my romanticized gaze, and here I am again, in nothing but my 21st century reality where everything is candy coated vomit, shined, plastered, and spun into something of ‘value.’ There is no lesson to be learned from this, there is no desired exile, or thirst for more beyond this lifestyle, except for “more, more, more.”

I cannot write, because my computer has a virus, I cannot talk because I didn’t pay my phone bill, I have no idea what my best friend is up to, because I couldn’t find her on facebook.

What a dead world.

I walk down these city streets every morning, and again in the night, these same streets that centuries of shared, as others before me have taken likewise in my plight.

Is this how they thought of their world, and the past before the past? Is it a deadspace? Is it unconquerable inevitability? I cannot believe it was so… I’ve read the books, such hearts they all had, I’ve seen the films, such beauty, I’ve listened to the ragtime melodies that reveal and tell of a soul long before I knew mine.

So what can I do? Alone here in my thoughts… I watch the frat boys spit in contest, until I hear it land, until I flick my cigarette gently into the church parking lot, that will be filled, back to back, like a can of sardine sedans tomorrow, for mass, so people can listen in hollow wisdom of a virtue of the past, and pay their respects in iconic surrender, as I linger, black and white in my mind, of such rapture & splendor.

I had written this while still living in Chicago. That city is truly alive, it breathes as you and I breath, its heart pumps underground and through crowds walking its streets, the passengers on the trains and busses, and through the people, shoving, knee deep in snow on their way to work.

Quite a bit in my life has changed since those nights. In some ways I think I’ve lost the edge that one needs to live in a city like Chicago. I’ve gotten gentler; I open doors for others instead of pushing myself through them first.


When I go outside it’s silent, say for the cicadas. There is no more looking into alleyways or being serenaded by sirens and other inner city sounds. The stars here shine so bright that only the moon can block them out, and one can look out into dense space from miles around.

Of course I love the this vastness of nature… but I have to admit, sometimes, in the wee hours I lie in bed and reminisce of those same city sounds, walking shoulder to shoulder in a sea of strangers, cutting through back alleys racing to work, crawling home from the end of my shift at two o’clock in the morning, climbing up and up and up six stories high to my little blue box on top. I still get that alone feeling, but, maybe looking back, it wasn’t such a dead world after all, no, just a different kind of alive.

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