by David Gardiner

Union Station Hausmusik

The Rail Club serves its specials in Styrofoam
Hung out like mail for the straight-railed ride home./
The vast majority of this small and undistinguished group tip/
Rarely—their hands, or money—to a bartender 
Who learned to speak English twenty-seven years ago 
From Mr. Walker and his small red sacred book.

Sixty-three some odd feet above the bar lean three statues:
Justice without her scales; Astraea with a blackbird; and
Andromache without wings. Each of the draped and dusty women butt their
Heads on the ceiling barely missing the gray globular
Cameras—plastic shaded balls on a tin and gothic ceiling.

Only Andromache seems disturbed by the anachronism.
But she likes the city too well, thinks the station’s “fascinating”
And the “hustle and bustle” somewhat “exciting.”
The globes float like lint in a laundromat, out of Astraea’s way
And far beyond Justicia*s considerations, sword, or flail.

By the next administration, these same surveillance cameras
Will be mirrored. These gray worlds will coerce brusque woolen dancing,
And, as promised, each and every evening in the privacy of our own homes
We’ll watch our husbands on TV as they finger twelve ounce lidless cups,
Take account of their watches, and listen (somewhat distractedly)
To the next to last train move slowly out to the suburbs.

From the C. T. A. Office: Aeolian Train

I. Matins

Brick dragons luxuriate on rooftops
Sleepily eyeing our descent past guttural 
Pigeons towards the mouth of North & Clybourn Ave.

Virgil in a cyclone cage benedicts:
The walkway; passing lights—this southbound all-stop train;
Washed-out faces; snow stuck to the tracks.

They all wend down. Dispatched by fluorescent 
Crozier—dim orange light of the Latino’s shadow.
Dragons take flight into the disappearing sky.

II. Aubade
(for Marlene)

You walk apart
From Chicago streets awash
With pigeon grays and blues;

In a North Umbrian fog of
Cigarette smoke, sewer mist, 
And uilleann pipes.

Enveloped by
The cuff-cleaned circle
Of the bus window

You reel once and
Your white scarf is set free
In a February wind.

III. Vespers

A paper under my arm and
A Big sky over Lawson Y,
The best unbathed guitarists play 
The Coventry Carol, we walk—
Holy Innocents sneaking home,
With harmless, two day old Sun-Times.

IV. Nocturne: A Wish
(for Frank O*Hara)

The spark off the back car of a green line train
As it rattles inaudibly away while you stand trenchcoat still
Between the glass doors of the platform and the State of Illinois Building
Watching your second to last chance home.

Asleep in the city

Asleep in the city
Rattling afternoon trucks
Zephyr & Debussy on WNIB
Or a scratchy Coltrane tape to
Roll through your shadowed nursery.

Upstairs he seems to be listening
To top 40 radio for the fiftieth time today.

I look around for where you get your peace.
I can*t remember sleeping through one of these afternoons....

I turn down the radio and envy
Your peach comforter, your pacifier,
All those oxymoronic things—
Except maybe the vaporizer—
that sound as out of place as urban living.


©2000 Richard Gardiner

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