From The Archive

Chicago

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CHICAGO (shi-ka’go) n. American city, lat. 41° 50′ N., long. 87° 38′ W.

SYN: three syllables, sounds craving sense; meanings yearned for, drooled, exclaimed, hotly forged, shot and cursed—bellyup in the acres, the buoy has logged itself with sweat and South-seared tears. The Lake will not save it. Still they stay, those Nine Million who clutch to it tightly, afraid of the land, crammed on stoops and stages, but for crossing its streets just to drag on that last gasp of light, purposed that their blue night will not suffocate under the furrow dreams of the Midwest, to be plowed deeper and deeper by the Everlast dawn. Here migrance ends, America’s insomniac circulation, pumping trains and now bussing tables, whiting out its Delta blood. The several histories Dropping red, the gravity of passed abuse. But the cradle jostles on, and we may yet daub it: the cries recollecting All who ever bred a dream, to y’all a chile to better, to shephard a foyer of mirrors, to riff alone or gather the stricken, All who ever strode dancing, Kicking, gunning a car or worse, who brokered the poor, who sought wherefore, who Clipped to green and did a ho, who struck, who got your back, who tomorrow will again croweye freedom beyond our sills. This their babies’ joints race and print and profit, Church and mate and institution gnaw but cannot unmarrow. So the city, Distinctions’ easy victual, might in a good telling be remembered a closer place—sturdy hips and fat hands, and jumpropes and baskets and strays in the street, choirs for Homes, wiping fevered dribble, supper’s indifferent ladle, boycotted yokes and cancer’s resinous wake—conch upon a time quenched gulping warm milk and Scotch, and many fighting dreams, for “community” and “morality” the Sisyphean and all the less sufficient task of connotation. More for the lapping, time and time and time, sidewalk crests to nuller depths . . . and it’s good that this is too much of a stretch, meaning buoyancy, because “Chicago” has Yet littly delimited itself. Now: our need for words full of life and grammars protective of it, conscioned wordplays, fewer and more compassionate metaphors, abstracting rules,

but every so often vanity and even homonymy steal up on the clearest intentions and—

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