Chicago, 1983

Rain is a dreary March in Chicago
Where I’m walking down La Salle Street
Watching a man dance at the intersection with Goethe–
Seven pigeons ride his shoulders.

I thought maybe he would be carried right
Out of 1984, and into some place where time
Is not, where angels hum country and western songs
And wear too much lipstick, but it’s heaven, man,
So no one cares, especially those of us
Who at any moment might be snatched from history
And carried to that further shore,

Where I see grandma making biscuits, rolling
The dough out into a ghostly sheet, then cutting
Out each one and using the leftover scraps
To make me my own sweet potato pie,
Fried to crispness in the iron skillet.

Say what you will about iron, the necessity
Of learning hard truths in lean years
Before you fall into the valley of the shadow
Of broken things, that trash-littered street
Where broken wine bottles gleam in yesterday’s
Sun like prophets of formaldehyde.

It’s not often that you spell a word like
Formaldehyde correctly on your first try,
Just like it’s not often you encounter prophets
In broken glass—but man, when the sun fires
All the glittering things we have lost,
We remember nights in blue sedans,
Cruising down Lake Shore Drive and passing Belmont where
The lights of small boats drifted in the harbor like dim stars.

Jesse Millner is published in the Grist, Book of Matches, The Best American Poetry 2013 and Best Small Fictions 2020. His latest poetry book, Memory’s Blue Sedan, was released in March 2020. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University and lives in Estero, Florida, with his dog, Lucy.