The Sunday Poem: Don McIver... Damen Stop

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.  

Damen Stop

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,
head phones,
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.
She slips...
and the air from the rush hour commuters withdraw in one long, uniform gasp.
No one,
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.

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 184

Comment by Margaret Randall on March 18, 2012 at 9:44am

Don almost always nails it. There is so much of Chicago in this poem I feel like I'm there... making my way off the train, bottlenecked behind the "big, lumbering black woman / carrying too many bags," and on cue to help her up from her fall. Having lived in New York, I know big cities (New York, Paris, Chicago) often have reputations for their people being cold and uncaring. The opposite is usually true. This poem captures so much of what sits on those big shoulders...

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on March 18, 2012 at 10:13am

awe inspiring and gives me shivers (those good-poem shivers).  Damn, Don, keep writing like this!  Love the being there you gave me (us).

Comment by Julie Brokken on March 18, 2012 at 11:08am

beautiful piece of life and humanity!  thank you Don.  Reflects an experience I had here in ABQ... It is a wonder to feel taken care of and loved by strangers!

Comment by Barelas Babe on March 18, 2012 at 11:58am

On this windy day your carefully chosen words have transported me to the Windy City! Powerful poem, Don.

Comment by Dee Cohen on March 18, 2012 at 2:29pm

I remember the subway struggles in NYC. Every day was a short story of hope, despair, redemption and, oh, boredom too. You have nailed all those feelings and tossed in some grey snow for good measure. Thank you

Comment by Gabriella Duncan on March 18, 2012 at 8:53pm

Don, Amazing  : )  especially "covered in creaky weathered wood"...very nice indeed!


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