Big Bridge #10

Export: Writing the Midwest


Robert Klein Engler



You may look up and west from Argyle Street
and see the dark bellies of the jets as they
follow a glide path to land at O'Hare Field.
They are far enough away to be silent,
sliding down on the oil of wind, coming in
low with their human weight and cargos.
Engines lift them from winter to wasteland.

Dmitri Shostakovich said his many symphonies
were tombstones, a testimony to those
silent dead sacrificed to all the ideologies
let loose in the world like mysterious storms.
Stalin signs papers and men fall into graves.
Love did not rescue them and love does not turn
the heart of one we miss in flight as far as China.

With these bodies, men will always be human.
Would you rather have your life back or a song?
The music of our machines drowns out the music
of tenderness, or the silence before the bullet
smacks. The black scrawl of signatures swirl
and then the past evaporates. Stones flake to soil.
We weigh so much until we weightlessly fall.

The boys in rehab, lounging along the sidewalk
of Argyle talk and talk and talk, yet the lull
that fills their wanting is seldom spoken.
Who tells how they are linked to the high jets
the way quick fingers make the cello sing?
They just get up and move on, muffled as snails,
leaving blank the tombstones of cold cement.

As he waits, the hours deepen and he feels
that peace in the heart moves like the silence
of reading. Even today the wind of ideology
ushers in dry baptisms, and when longing tosses
the leaves of the soul, or a thistle wind rages,
letters grow into the vacancy. To carry our
body upward is to carry the stone of its pain.

The absent lover leaves behind a ghostly shape
like clouds the jets fly beyond. He remembers,
together in his room, they talked, then assassins
came. Now, there is a symphony that fills the air
and a hush, too, then the silence of God drafting
our furious story above the world--with white
wings like paper and black wings like words.

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