So, I’ll run
I’ll be well on my way, walking
home the long city streets seven
miles from downtown in a white
anger when the short, wide, thick,
lumpish, oddly handsome weight-lifter
of a man will be standing there, as I
round the building corner, a long
knife in his left hand and, on his
head, a backward baseball cap. He’ll
lock his eyes on mine, and, in his own
anger, clearly state unintelligible
syllables that I will know as a threat.
And, so, I’ll run off the sidewalk and
into the street, taking in the blooded
victim behind the knife man and the
sounds of sirens nearing and the knife
man standing in his stance, staring at
me and stabbing the blade into his
thigh again and again and again. I’ll
feel in my own thigh the blade of
each entry as the phantom pain
electrics up my spine, and I’ll close
my eyes and see the empty white
extending in all directions, formless
and vast and eternally ignorant of me.
Yes, here I am at
your grave, Adelaide,
in the full green of
summer grass in
but it does you no
good, does it? dead
for three years after
frail in the end ones
and a slow-spasming
body on your pure
hospital death bed
when, if alert, you
would have felt such
shame for me to see
your infant need and
mouth. A mile north,
downtown streets are
blocked in Evanston
for unaimed strolls
for chit and chat on
offer under tents
promising relief from
the pounding rays of
the clicking clock as
the voice of the stage
singer, first up, alone,
before two lanes of
bare tables and chairs,
a melody in the wild. I
feel duty to visit the
barber Ben nearing
ninety-eight, but the
weight chafes like the
corduroys I wore, poor-
sized, handed me, that
sang a shameful tune as
I walked the high school
corridor with a volcanoed
face and stiffly spined
before the ever eyes of
stone. Adelaide, you saw
your father, aged when
you were born before my
begetters, a kind of
perfect. You and I know
he was matted, chipped,
leaky, scuffed, pocked,
and empty as are we all.
He looked into your eyes.
I will stand again at State
and Madison in his honor
and yours although it will
do you no good, will it?
who have nothing for me as
I have nothing for you. Do I?
Helen, waiting underground at the
foot of the stairs for the train-goers,
handsome but worn, pretty once in
a sun-swept grass-thick backyard,
now staccato with health sagas, slyly
asking the name of each with quarters
or a dollar for her and, on other days,
remembering. It is hard to ignore
someone who knows your name.
In Burger King, the beard guy with the
bike with bags filled with bags, bags,
bags, bags, bags, a single orange juice
in front of him his claim to the table and,
forehead-down on the Formica, he snoring,
dreaming of lifting the garbage lid in the
alley behind the Diner. The minimum-
wage kid cleans the floor around him.
Northbound lanes on Clark Street at Ridge
Avenue, the guy with the limp and the bad
eye, a toll booth, clothes too big, skin bad,
working each clumping of cars and trucks,
collecting coins in a plastic Coke cup, liking
the sound of the coin chaos rattling into the
cup even though the paper has more worth.
St. Helen of the Subway, pray for us.
St. Bicycle-man, pray for us.
St. Limper, pray for us.
The babuska’d angel, she of the tender smile
and gentle word, asks for prayers. Her water-
thickened fragile husband fell down the stairs,
her once-bear of steel and hug of caress is coma’d
in a hospital bed, and she remembers the ballet
she, young, took him, young, to and he liked it.
I am full of grace
and sorrow, and
I beg forgiveness
and forbearance —
can you see me? —
and my tears fall
for them and for
her and for him
and for my self-
dead brother and
for me, and for our
she of fear, and
our flat face father,
even for himself.
Viva la vida.
Patrick T. Reardon is a Chicagoan, born and bred. He is the author of eight books, including Requiem for David, a poetry collection, published in February, 2017, by Silver Birch Press and Faith Stripped to Its Essence: A Discordant Pilgrimage through Shusaku Endo’s ‘Silence.’ Reardon worked for 32 years as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, specializing in urban affairs, and is now writing a book about the impact of the elevated railroad Loop on the stability and development of Chicago. His essays and poems have appeared frequently in American and European publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter, Illinois Heritage, Reality and U.S. Catholic. His book reviews have twice won the Peter Lisagor Award for arts criticism. He has lectured on Chicago history at the Chicago History Museum.