The City of Ice & Steel | Miscellany | Chicago Reader

The City of Ice & Steel 

for all the artists who leave it (after Barbara Barg)

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this is the city of ice & steel

you live in

look outside, you see snow

look out the el window, you see only metal

& the layers of paint that cover it

& the layer of dirt that tops it

count the colors of the rainbow: blue, tan, orange & green

a different one for every station

soon pollution will make of them

a black & gray snapshot

this is your city of ice & steel

the airport planes grate daily against their runways

you are welcome to spend your holiday emergencies here

the floor, after all, makes a perfect card table

deal out your relatives

1 in New York

1 in Dallas

a different one for every city

buy a book to read

only 8% sales tax here

buy a pack of cigarettes

anything to keep you happy

buy a souvenir

please identify the following landmarks

1. a stone tower that survived the Famous Chicago Fire

(to-day an expensive shopping center also)

2. X marks the spot that holds

this monument to acrophobia

together

windows all around to prevent you from

jumping now and thinking later

but nothing stops progress here

or the wind from knocking out its windows

pedestrians are safe here

they have the right of way

this is your city of ice & steel

the Second City, always growing

no one outdoes us

everything is progress here

tear it down & build a new one

better yet, build a parking lot instead

who needs the Auditorium, the Chicago Public library

baubles

we have a memory, we remember

the little apple, always on its way up

107 flites of little boxes

put them together

like building blocks

what do you have?

buy a replica

take it home with you

put it next to your soft Picasso

next to your Sears Catalogue

you order drinks every day

you might as well order a dress

also

this is the city of ice & steel

look at the way it frames you in a photograph

watch how its mouth opens

daily at 8:05 8:35

9:05 9:35

and devours you

don't you make a pretty picture

sitting at your desk

with your second cup of coffee

who will paint you?

another van gogh

the city harbors hordes of madmen

the city loves them

& you

a little less, maybe

but nonetheless, monster with a heart that it is

(for years "the machine" had Daley's name on it)

the city loves you

gives you 2 newspapers every day

browse thru them

on the train

on your way home

your voice is hidden somewhere in them

the voice of the people, that's you, the Silent Majority

two eyes & a nose, that's all

adults were made to be seen at the voting polls

& never heard from again

till the next election

the most popular game ever invented

pick a hand, any hand

left, right

pick a name, any name

pull the lever

Do you believe in the President of the United States?

Who is your Vice-President?

Think quick. What's his name?

Are his eyes the same color as yours?

Would he read your book if you wrote one?

this is the city of ice & steel

you can get anything you want here

you can order pizza anytime

& snow comes free all the time

1 cup snow

a dash of sugar:

snow cookies

for snow water, wait till they melt

feed it to your dolls

drink it yourself

snowballs are good, too

throw them at the CTA

you never know when a train or bus window

will break

screams

don't they sound exciting

go up close

you might see some blood, too

are you in a hurry?

get on the el

it's an Express now

"The next stop for this delayed train

will be Belmont"

get off, transfer

it's free

after all, the city loves you

wants to get you there on time

for all your important appointments

this is the city of ice & steel

nothing soothes you into the mood for poetry

nothing lullabyes you into sleep

but the lethargy of repetitions

(the whoosh of the trains going by

overhead

the clock ticking away

while you wait to be freed for the miracle

of lunchtime

your coffeebreak

the weekend wonder)

nothing relaxes here

nothing relents but your own conscience

this is the city of ice & steel

look outside, all you see is the hard line of angles

lines going up & down &

sideways

these are the lines that divide you

from the suburbs

nothing different ever happens there

only an occasional murder

& lots of clothes to buy

count the plazas on your fingers

next hand please

start again

this is the city of ice & steel

look outside, the weather threatens you

instead of Mohammed going to the mountain,

Alaska comes to you

not satisfied with your old car?

the snow will bury it for you

didn't do your homework?

take a walk on the icy side

your leg will mend soon

too tired to take another step?

the wind will manage for you

will carry your shopping bags, too

the wind is a gentleman

only lifts your skirt occasionally

& never stays long enough to look

just another pair of legs

walkng by

who cares?

plenty of fish in this city

count them

1 dead alewife on the beach

2 dead alewives on the beach

soon there will be dozens

a new system of constellations to

make up for the loss of the one in the sky

let me read your alewife-scope

for today

gaze into the crystal alewife

you will see your future

in its dead eye

stare at it

it won't stare back

a blinded Cyclops,

no need for Odysseus here

this is no man's land already

this is your city of ice & steel

look at it

watch it carefully

see how it breaks you into a thousand snowflakes

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustrations/Mary Flock.

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