Watercolor on Paper w/Laserprint on Tissue
38" x 24"
by Emily Thornton Calvo (copyright 2014)
Chicago is no woman.
He is the cousin who owes you money,
pays you back with a wink and a smile.
You don’t ask where the money came from.
He is well-read, but better fed.
You can dress him up to dazzle in a tux,
but more T-shirt and jeans,
his shirttails run amok.
No, Chicago is no woman.
Chicago plays smart, but acts stupid
Raised with muscle,
he hustles and guzzles three-dollar brews
He knows all the back rooms
and how to keep secrets.
He’s a little James Bond and a lot John Belushi
His lies are of coarse sand.
In May’s balmy days, he sends a freeze,
teases like an uncle who baits his nephew
with a dollar bill, pulls it back and wheezes
“Thought you hit pay dirt, didn’t you, kid…”
His soot lines my lungs.
In summer, he is a brawny lug of hot air
edgy and ready
with a knuckle punch,
a “don’t cross me, chump, or I’ll…”
His heat smothers like an open oven.
In winter, he’s gets drunk on snow
high on the blow
of winds that pummel buildings
like a boxer on a punching bag.
His cold sands my face.
When planners raised blocks to grids,
he trampled angles across lawns.
Worn paths became Archer,
Lincoln, Elston and Ogden.
No longer taking stock in the yards,
he gambles on the exchange,
opens and closes small businesses
like traveling circuses.
His skyline evolves like heartbeats across a monitor
Build one, knock one down, build one…
He feeds theater and laughter to the Big Apple.
His river rolls between towers
paces defiantly in all directions.
His parks grant reprieves
from concrete with carpets green.
He’s a sucker for poets and writers,
hides his artistry behind lions,
spits poems in bars,
blows solid blues.
With his toothy Midwestern grin,
he schmoozes films stars and conventioneers
who stagger on Rust Street.
Greektown. Chinatown. Little Italy.
He disguises segregation
with neighborhood pride.
His grid makes it easy to plot a course.
His grit makes it rough to move around.
His riches are not Gold Coast fare.
Look for his treasure
in magnificent smiles
all colors, all shapes.
See it at sunrise,
when diamonds blanket lake water.
at dusk, as lights jewel the horizon,
Hear it in the sound of distant tongues.
No, Chicago is no woman.
Perhaps, Chicago is no man.
Maybe this city is androgynous,
The yin-yang in each of us:
The vegan behind the bakery counter,
The cop who thinks he can help,
The gangbanger with a poem,
The optimistic Cub fan.
Chicago’s riches reflect everything—
the best and worst of you, me, us.