The Chicago Poem

Jerome Rothenberg

 
       for Ted Berrigan & Alice Notley
the bridges of Chicago
are not the bridges of Paris
or the bridges of Amsterdam
except they are a definition
almost no one bothers to define
like life full of surprises
in what now looks to be the oldest
modern American city
o apparition of the movie version of
the future circa 1931
the bridges soon filled with moving lines
of people workers' armies
in the darkness of first December visit
along the water
bend of the Chicago River
the cliffs of architecture like palisades
at night the stars in windows
stars in the poem you wrote a sky
through which the el train pulls its lights
in New York streets of childhood
is like a necklace (necktie) in the language of
old poems old memories
old Fritz Lang visions of the night before
the revolution the poor souls
of working people we all love
fathers or uncles
lost to us in dreams & gauze
of intervening 1960s
there are whole tribes of Indians
somewhere inhabiting
a tunnel paradise
they will wait it out still
with a perfect assurance of things to come
everyone so well read in old novels
maybe the economics of disaster Ted
depressions of the spirit
so unlike the bright promise of
the early years
gloss of the young life easing death
atop a hill in Lawrence Kansas
the afternoon sky became aluminum
(illumination)
played on a tambourine to calm
the serpent fear
the material corpse that leaves us vulnerable
everyone will come to it I think
I do not think you dig it
getting so out of hand so far away
but we remain & I will
make another visit soon
hope we can take a walk
together it is night & we are
not so bad off have turned forty
like poets happy with our sadness
we are still humans in a city overhung
with ancient bridges
you pop your pill I laugh
look back upon the future of
America & remember
when we both wrote our famous poems called
Modern Times
 
From New Selected Poems. Copyright © 1986 by Jerome Rothenberg. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Poems by This Author

45
I Give Up My Identity
by Jerome Rothenberg
My name is smaller
Autobiography 1997
The First One Hundred
by Jerome Rothenberg
Archipelago of the wandering dream
Blake's Babes: A Prophecy by Jerome Rothenberg
infant encoil'd
Lorca Variation 34
A Book of Hours
by Jerome Rothenberg
The green man, more a man
That Dada Strain by Jerome Rothenberg
the zig zag mothers of the gods
The Case for Memory by Jerome Rothenberg
I was amok & fearless
The Lorca Variations (I)
"Lorca's Spain: A Homage"
by Jerome Rothenberg
Beginning with olive trees
The Lorca Variations (XXVIII)
"For Turtles"
by Jerome Rothenberg
Up there—or down here


Further Reading

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