The Chicago Poem
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.