City Limits #2 (Traces of Charlie)

(a seven-year follow-up to City Limits )

For Dickens, London was a magic lantern

he’d stomp through the muddy streets, ten miles every night

watching the faces, reading the names on the gravestones

hearing the voice of Mrs. Gamp prattling on in his head.

Now I look for traces of Charlie in Chicago, where he never set foot,

but where I moved when the ghost told me to keep moving

as if I ever needed convincing.

I walk up to the cemetery where Charlier’s no-good brother is buried

and to the library that has all the first editions

across the street from Bughouse Square

but that’s not where you find him.

It’s in the gnarled and peggoty faces of the men on the Ashland Street bus

going home from work on a rainy evening,

the snowy rooftops of the townhouses the roll slowly by

beneath the windows of the brown line train,

the smoke coming up from the smokestacks of the riverfront factories

and the neon lights that are like ruddy smears against the fog.

You can see the same faces he saw if you know where to look.

There’s Uriah Heep on the #65

Micawber on the blue line.

Wackford Squeers driving the little red bus

and Bentley Drummle oozing out of every Lincoln Park bar.

Esther Summerson in Andersonville with Tattycoram

and Dr. Marigold operating out of the trunk of his car

underneath the El tracks on Lake Street.

Reverend Chadband is preaching into a microphone outside of

the State Street Old Navy,

and Mr. Krook is running one of those smelly crud shops

on Chicago avenue, down the road from the wig district.

If you listen heard enough you can still hear the foghorns

coming off the lake

and lord only knows what else.

I promised to keep moving

but put the keys on the chimleypiece

and let me put my fingers to them

when I am disposed.

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3 Responses to City Limits #2 (Traces of Charlie)

  1. Awesome, Adam! Great to see you here.
    I know exactly the Chicago faces you mean, and I love your take. Now, I’ll never see them the same way.

  2. gnarlyoak says:

    I love the vivid imagery in this epic chicago tale. Told in a way reminiscent of Homer. Poem on!

  3. Tim Keeton says:

    Adam! Velcome back.

    Excellent piece. The imagery and examples are spot on.

    Rhyme on!
    (Thus spake the Undead)

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