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Watercolor on Paper w/Laserprint on Tissue 

38" x 24"



My Chicago

     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.

My Chicago

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