Big Bridge #10

Export: Writing the Midwest


Larry O. Dean


Potholes of Chicago

Potholes of Chicago,
open your mouths!
There are virgin steel-
belteds to be chomped.

             Drivers frazzled
from their commutes,
ears glued to cell phones
or singing desperately along
with radio entertainment,
will misjudge or miss you,

swerving too late
to avoid condemnation;
like death row inmates,
they are doomed. Workers

who fill the potholes
are off mixing asphalt

and sneaking swigs of beer,
dreaming of the dentists
they could have been
in another life,

sweating in the hot sun.
             The mixer churns
hot black fixative
for pouring, spinning
like a raffle barrel;
near-deaf from the racket,

muscles built into rocks
after years on road
crews, the men go slowly
in praise of their pain –

speed would only push them
into more work, more often.

There is something
to be said for routine.
             In this churchgoing
town, they will pray

for fatter paychecks
and surplus pussy,
backs that don’t break
before the kids
have grown, kids
who should get into

other lines of work.
             On Lake Shore Drive
traffic is bumper-
to-bumper; at points

where it breaks up,
cars speed toward

homes, carrying
commuters to suburbs,
corners of the city;
Indiana and Wisconsin,
workers dirtied and clean
in ties, skirts and tee shirts,

tires jostling
in random goddamn holes.


I Ate Chocolate and Lost 20 Lbs.

Nobody will believe me,
although the facts are documented
in a scientific fashion,

recorded by experts
under controlled circumstances
using the most up-to-date
methods available.

The shrugged shoulders,
eyes darting around –
                   the hesitancy
of voices, and the cleared throats –

body language saying,
“No way!” Hands on hips
conveying impatience
with my perceived naďveté.

* * *

Every morning bowls
             of hot fudge
were delivered; and in
the afternoon, Hershey’s
Kisses. Peeling silver foil
from conical shapes, I

popped as many as I wanted
into my mouth.
dinner, it was solid
Easter bunnies and eggs,
shelled M&M’s,
and Toblerone. This pattern

persisted for weeks,
or months – I lost
track of time – and
hallucinated, hearing
voices and seeing things
that were not there,

all side effects
of my radical diet.

* * *

I spoke to a tree,
convinced it was my mother,
in the grocery’s parking lot,

walking home with two
buckets full of Tollhouse chips;
she sang to me, an old

nursery rhyme, and described
life on the other side.

She was happy, and I went
away aware everything
would be alright.

* * *

By then, I was theirs;
I had become a convert,
dropped pounds, seen God;
I had been reborn

          into a life
of chocolaty promise
where there was no turning
back and I didn’t

want to turn back.
I had arrived.

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