Minooka, IL

I.

Maise, you and I sit, backs

Against the only vending

Machine in Minooka
As you tip tap the toes

Of your unlaced sneakers.

It’s sold out and rusty, only
Two Bazooka bubble-gum

Packs, browned, twenty years

Old, they hang from the spindles

Like dead leaves on a corn crop.

Where do the trains go?


Chicago, I think.
 

I want to go. There are so many people there.

 

Don’t go. I heard it means stinking onion.

 

So?
 

So, it smells.
 

So? I like people and I like onions.

 

You’re counting the dented rail cars

And I’m not. Instead, I feel the sun

Warmed skin of your arm to mine

And the rolled up cuff of your faded

Hand-me-down t-shirt.

I glance at your hair as it falls just

Short of the stitching on the shoulder,

Hair the color of amber kernels,

Green eyes like weeds below a

Shallow still lake.

You smile and throw a rock

Across the gravel and it skips

Twice before landing in the

Low grass near the tracks and

You’ve lost count—

 

There’s ah interstate going up.

Lot’s oh cars, lot’s oh people.

 

The old man we call Ox

Steps out of the gas station

Just in time to tell us, that it’s

The last train Minooka will,

 

Ever feel.

II.

We stand, waving, waddling

Like two ducks with their

Wings half-spread after being

Chased by a kid with a stick.

We’re balancing on the same

Rail, trying to keep balance,

Poking each other, you say,

 

Aren’t we a little too old for this?

HONK!

You fall off the rail and look

At the sleek red car pulled up

To the pump and you smile

And wave and skip over and

 

I keep my balance, watch you

Woo in the window with the

Oily seniors until they pop

Open doors to let you in.

III.

 

The train tacks have faded into

Green, overgrown with dense

Weeds that brush like shoulders.

 

You work here now?

 

Trying to pay for college.

 

I’m watching him bang against

The machine with three fists,

It’s not even the gum that he’s

After just the banging.

 

Your hand drifts through his

Hair and you chance a look

At me, your boyish friend,

Faded out of Maise’s life.

 

V.

 

It’s Chicago in winter and

My back is turned against

The cold snow, below amber

Steel street lamps—

 

I catch the smell of a caramel

Popcorn shop, the glass

Barrel door turning in and

Out all the charcoal coats

Of the lives I guess at, see

I’m overwhelmed by people.

How I can never know them all

Deeply. I’m limited. Limited to

One, or two. I’ve lost count.

 

Still, the cars are weaving

Through the streets, dancing

Technicolor waves—

 

Suddenly, an old woman’s coat

Brushes mine, I say,

 

Excuse me.

 

Only, she’s lost in the crowd ahead 

And I’m lost behind. 

© 2019