When 213b finally opens in a crack of yellow linoleum, Garrett comes out with the left side of his afro as flat as the tire that used to be on his mom’s car & the stuck snick of the cheap door locking behind him sounds exactly like someone trying to light a smoke with an empty lighter. Carriage House East, where menthols cough like a window slamming shut & outside that window, somebody’s radio is already popping static. What’s left of the moon is popping white on blue. That’s when we stamp past the squat HUD brick toward school in the dark: shadow of the green trash can gang signed with misspellings, a mimeograph of Mickey Mouse flipping Iran the bird in the landlord’s lit window. We made the same middle-finger motion to the school bus before ignoring our bus stop & kept walking neighborhood- style—right hands skimming from chest down to waist then behind the back like a bad breast-stroker cupping air. Cue the sirens snagging the matted air like a cheap pick. Cue the smoker’s cough of early-morning walks to school. We strutted a backward lean like every one of the unconcerned streetlamps alternating between our side of the street & over there—in front of the fenced-in porches missing slats like teeth in a punched smile where Garrett’s cousin leaned against the side of one of the front buildings. She put two-fingered guns to her temples when she saw us: red patch of smoker’s skin around her mouth like a raw sun rising.
Central Avenue Beach
—Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 2016
Just off of Highway 12, Sandburg’s signature
of time & eternity: the muggy marshes
& thick forests of the mind, sand that sings
its memory of glaciers & the glaciers before
them. 14,000 years of them. After
the Potawatomi got marched away & before
the steel makers’ smokestacks & the abandoned
Bailly Nuclear Plant cupped this lakeshore
like hands around a beach party’s last
dry match: Lake Michigan’s wide-brimmed
posture as close to an ocean as the scrub
brush, gulls, & rocks around here will get.
Every town around here
has a Central Avenue, complete
with blustery flags & home-
cooked meals. Blank storefronts
& churches next to other churches—
lake light filtering through
their stained glass windows
most sunny afternoons after 3pm.
Steeples, one after another,
like the Great Lakes’ waves
trying to blink constant sand
out of wet eyes. & at night, all
of the avenue lights up. No street
lights, but stars & moon blinking
in agitated water while the industrial
lights on the fringes dim like blank
faces traced in constellations.
Listen to the Sand
Hill Cranes folding
into the dim fringes
like prayer hands.
Listen to the yellow
up in the middle
of knotted branches
like a hungry chorus
in these perfectly
paused trees. Even
at night, the birds
grab sand-swirled air
with nonchalant wings.
In the day or at night, central is centrālis in Latin & means exactly
what the warblers, trees, & restless dunes think it means: ruffles
of sand between the angry human fist & the equally angry
human face of industry, deregulations & pollutants as uninvited
as the sea lamprey wiggling through the locks & canals.
After the canals & their creaking locks
& the oxidized ships & their bleary horns,
the sun edges the blue between cuffed waves
& unrepentant shore. After gravity’s
insoluble gears pull all of this water away
from Central Avenue & back to the center
& the fish swim away from shore through
the gills of noises & sediment in that sideways
way fish do. In a lake this big, it’s possible
to swim in circles all day & get no further
from the moon than this parade of whitecaps
on the edges of the dunes. The same
frustrated tendencies of circle, these waves.
The same cornered ingenuity, this great lake.
These dunes, always on the mainline’s wet
cusp—polished, brocaded & fabulous.