(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.