This poem is about Chicago. Ever wondered what living in a big city is like? Read on. Carl Sandburg absolutely loved Chicago. To me, living there is one of those experiences remembered more fondly with 40 years of hindsight.
Chicago has several subway/elevated lines. I used to ride the Ravenswood line. This poem is about the Blue Line, which runs from The Loop to O'Hare airport on the northwest side. Albuquerque poet Don McIver nails it with this one.
A rickety ride
on a the Blue Line to Bucktown.
Snow falling on the city as we grind up the self-imposed hill
as the train goes from subway to elevated
and the city opens up down below both windows:
small wooden decks with neglected grills,
graffiti only a commuter will see
and no eye contact,
small quiet conversations,
people concentrating on books
as each stop is announced
and suddenly its Damen--my stop.
Platform made of steel,
covered in creaky weathered wood
with grey snow pushed up into corners
and the crowd steps off the train into weather,
windy, wet, wintry weather
and we wind our way around an equal number getting on
and we march in asyncopation,
bottled up behind a big, lumbering black woman,
carrying too many bags to make these slip-steel steps
something navigated haphazardly.
and the air from the rush hour commuters withdraw in one long, uniform gasp.
no one steps around or over,
even people down below her stop and crane their necks to check-in.
"Are you okay?"
comes a muted question from someone on the Damen stairs.
She mumbles, then lumbers up,
with the help of some stranger as he helps her down the steps.
Chicago...Carl Sandburg calls you the "City of Big Shoulders,"
and today you showed me why.
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