Adult Poems

Their Culture Is Capitalism

[2013]

They complained about the cold with a rare Chicagoan honesty. When the wind hits their faces and seeps through every orifice and pore to settle slowly into their bones they are broad shouldered and husky folk poets. So proud to be clear eyed and laughing. So proud to live where the freight-handlers daughter used to live. They walk slowly down Michigan avenue as one as if the hawk forces their crowd comfort into ubiquity. The city of big shoulders. The Big City that thinks it’s a small town as all the girls sing

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

They walk from Hancock to the Bean like the children of tortured writers conceived on benzodine trips whose parents told them not to do drugs after they filled their riddlen scripts. They step over the high homeless not recognizing that faraway look in their father’s eye’s because they may have been concieved in Vegas but daddy found God before they were born. They traded in riddlin for tea and found themselves unable to ask for a raise.  Being addicted to self-improvement means they have to exaggerate their flaws with cornucopias of neurosis and fat girls lose weight to come to terms with their arrogance.

The streets grin under their footsteps. You gave them your tired, weak and huddled masses yearning to be free and the streets melted them together. Michigan is asleep at 10 and by midnight it murmurs

There’s a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Past the Bean the steel and glass condos ooze the stench of potential ripening into through desperation and bar crawls until you wake up, hungover in parenthood. Young college students whitewash the mandarin they don’t understand with sheer bravado as the New Negroes wait for the train to get past Garfield where their city begins. The temporal anomaly that forces the races to avoid sitting next to each other rights itself after the loud mouth Uchicago students step off onto the platform humming:

And the people in the houses

All went to the university,

Where they were put in boxes

And they came out all the same,

And there’s doctors and lawyers,

And business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

The Southsiders lounge in the box cars like coal miners coming home from work. Like those coal miners they take cold showers to wash off the soot and cool themselves down in their tenements without central air. Yet after the showers they are still brown and black as the night and so they rub their paychecks on their skin hoping they change color. They pelt their children with cell phones and nike’s hoping that they bruise white enough to go to college.

And they all play on the golf course

And drink their martinis dry

And they all have pretty children

And the children go to school

And the children go to summer camp

And then to the university

Where they are put in boxes

And they come out all the same

After the train stops the city continues for miles. Bottles of broken dreams litter every street even as the smoke from crack in Englewood becomes the exhausts from Cadillacs in Beverly. This is the New Nation that the newspapers call Chiraq but from Hyde Park to Chatham former Irishmen sell suits to formers slaves. These former slaves, blind from malnutrition, sing work songs in their food desserts infused with the new culture of capital.

And the boys go into business

And marry and raise a family

In boxes made of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same

There’s a pink one and a green one

And a blue one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same

Let me know what you think

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