A death in the building
When the elevator stops on seven
I know it is her body in the long bag
on a gurney--the bag with a zipper
that runs from head to toe.
The undertakers nod and the doors
slide close--I am left alone to ride
the air down to the lobby.
It's ordinary, but then it's not--
leaving with a snap that darks or brights--
then, no more labor, no more cool halls,
and no more the rush of the L when her
windows are open to summer.
I would like you to listen to our worry:
the reoccurring dream of being late
for the train, unable to take those bags
left at the hotel, the train bound to a city
we cannot name but must visit to go home.
The rigid static of her one sided language
tries to talk about the sudden cold.
Hurry. He waves. You come too.
Water mumbles over a short dam,
the rasp of a saxophone brushes out
a melody of cocktails and smoke--
all I have to say about her passing
is what we say of anyone--childhood
by a river, a pleated cheerleader's skirt,
the rough hands of a boy and man on her,
a breeze that lifts the picnic tablecloth,
the jazz of rain and too many nights
alone with the longhand of prayer.
Sometimes, when it rains, it rains hard.
We've been waterlogged to our bones.
That was life on the bayou among cypress tree.
Oh, honey, we all go away sometime.
Don't ya know? Do ya like my green gloves
and straw hat? Watch those peppers--they's hot!
This is what remains:
relatives fly in from L. A.,
jerked by an inconvenience in their lives,
someone will get her apartment,
the dusty books will be thrown away,
scraps and scarfs are given to the resale
store and her Terrier is put down.
This is what remains:
elevator circuits click and carry
mourners to the perfume of closed rooms.
The janitor worries if he will keep his job.
The lobby doors open and close
to catch a reflection from the street
like a mirror without quick silver.
A coal train screeches east through Aurora
early Sunday morning--past the Paramount
Theater, past the Fox River, past Hercule's
Gallery of Hair. Father in heaven, take
to your bosom your daughter, take this
daughter of Israel to a land of milk and honey.
We lie in bed, with a plexiglas
of darkness between our selves.
The perfume of a humid dawn
issues through the open window.
There is laughter outside as the night
shift leaves--car doors slam,
engines turn over, and with the push
of wheels, they drive away.
CHICAGO CURRENT headlines