August 9, 2018
Poetry by Chuck Kramer
High School Graduation
You bounce across the stage with a proud, tasseled
grin, sure the adult world will greet you with a
smile on the other side of your diploma.
Little do you know or care that the days stretch
with seamless precision to a pockmarked future of
jobs and lost loves and cold meals where
hands wring with confusion, fenders
dent with disappointment and sheets are
stained with tears and terror.
Today, dreams sparkle on the
TV screen of your imagination as you
parade in spot-lit triumph to the cheers of peers, the
delight of your parents and the promise of tomorrow
when you will cut your teeth
on the knife blade of reality which
lurks so quietly, so deceptively
in the back pocket of your youth.
she always beatings
needed a ride got bad
long blond but nothing
hair and a could quench
big open smile the wanderlust
always had always had
her thumb some place
out looking to go someone
for a lift she had to
but the weed see but the
was the last time
only thing she hitched
that ever a ride the
picked her speeding driver
up never brought her
went far home with
dropped out stiff marble
of school lips and a
couldn’t hold a toothless
job for long vodka smile
ran away from her blond
home went hair snarled
around the by the wild
corner smoked wind that
with the whipped her
girls drank lonely heart
beer with the and blinded
guys until her her cold,
money ran highway
out or the hungry eyes
Subway through Time
I walk down Argyle Street and climb the stairs
to the Red Line train. Skyscrapers along
the southern horizon,Vietnam bustling
on the street below.
I step aboard and ride to the Loop
through the prism of time.
The train roars past St. Bernard’s where I was
born and transports me to high school on
Across the aisle, behind
the misted chimera of memory,
my grandmother has my hand, leading
me off at Washington for lunch at Field’s
and then an hour with my uncle in his
office on Jackson.
We fly past DePaul, where
I fell in love with Maya in grad school,
and tunnel underground at North
and Clybourn, where I transferred with
my loving wife when we were dating,
her home out west in Humboldt Park.
Riders come and go in the Loop stations—
Lake Street, Monroe, Jackson—
turning points that saw me grab a Blue Line
train to family life and three sons who roared
away, lost now in the dark tube which swallows
time. A woman cackles on her phone, heads
bob to ear-bud music, a mother checks
her watch, anxious lap full of groceries.
Time and the train move on as I ride through
the west side, the lights flashing past, luring,
exciting, preposterous flares in a dark urban maze.
I stare out the window and wonder
if anyone will meet me at the
end of the line to guide me home.
Or will I simply merge with the night,
a faded memory, exiled to the train
with the other ghosts who grab the poles
and lurch along through the
dim haze of fading years?
The doors open and it’s down the stairs
to Lisa’s warm smile on Cermak and the walk
to her small, fragrant kitchen where time stops.
I lean over a steaming bowl of soup
and tell her about my day and my
dreams for tomorrow.
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