city life.

My neighborhood, Chicago. Twenty-five years later.
A man crosses the street in rain,
    one long last step over the curb.

His coffee cup out at an exaggerated 
    distance, a comically small cup
    to be sheperding through the 
    crowded city street.

He's on time. Two more blocks.
    Past the Thai place, past the laundromat,
    past the diner. He'll be there soon.

Two keys -- one for the gate, one for the door.
    It's an old building, tight turns on
    the stairs. Small rooms. No closets.

He takes off his shoes & feels the moist cold
    of his socks as he walks to the window, 
    twisting the fading light into the living room.

There's a chair he'll leave behind in
    eight months when he moves home
    (but he doesn't know that now),
    brocaded, low, a color he can't name,
    springs he can't ignore. 

He reaches & turns on the TV. His team
    almost never televised here, far from home. 
    His team will receive.

It's a Sunday in January. 1995.

From a project with students, using the first line of Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye

6 responses to “city life.”

  1. I found myself following the subject with rapt attention. There’s a concreteness to the description that makes the scene very real, almost cinematic. The “comically small cup” and “moist cold of socks” pull me into the setting like magnets.


  2. You take the reader to the exact place, walking alongside the man–you? I like how you show it’s the last time to be in the Chicago…”one long last step over the curb.” and “a chair he’ll leave behind…(but he doesn’t know that now)…” Your students are lucky to have you write such a strong piece as an example. And, of course, using Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry as inspiration. Your writing is incredible.


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