Chicago and December

In December, we’re highlighting some of our favorite holiday poems and writings. Sharon Olson writes, “Recently Poetry Magazine published online a poem by W. S. Di Piero. I suspect he is not well known, but he is one of my favorite poets. Because he taught at Stanford near where I lived, I met him a few times and we even exchanged some limited correspondence. Di Piero’s poems often are concerned with the lives of the working class people, like the ones he grew up with in South Philly. His poem “Chicago and December” is a personal meditation of his reactions walking around that city, about the commercialism of the holiday decorations, but more importantly he invokes the change of seasons, marked by the flight of birds.”


CHICAGO AND DECEMBER
W. S. Di Piero

Trying to find my roost
one lidded, late afternoon,
the consolation of color
worked up like neediness,
like craving chocolate,
I’m at Art Institute favorites:
Velasquez’s “Servant,”
her bashful attention fixed
to place things just right,
Beckmann’s “Self-Portrait,”
whose fishy fingers seem
never to do a day’s work,
the great stone lions outside
monumentally pissed
by jumbo wreaths and ribbons
municipal good cheer
yoked around their heads.
Mealy mist. Furred air.
I walk north across
the river, Christmas lights
crushed on skyscraper glass,
bling stringing Michigan Ave.,
sunlight’s last-gasp sighing
through the artless fog.
Vague fatigued promise hangs
in the low darkened sky
when bunched scrawny starlings
rattle up from trees,
switchback and snag
like tossed rags dressing
the bare wintering branches,
black-on-black shining,
and I’m in a moment
more like a fore-moment:
from the sidewalk, watching them
poised without purpose,
I feel lifted inside the common
hazards and orders of things
when from their stillness,
the formal, aimless, not-waiting birds
erupt again, clap, elated weather-
making wing-clouds changing,
smithereened back and forth,
now already gone to follow
the river’s running course.


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