Chicago

By Barbara Wuest

Farthest was the horizon, then the Lake, Lakeshore Drive, closer still the zoo, its camels wandering inside the fence, then the steamed-up glass of the conservatory, and closer still, the windows of the suite on the 16th floor where two lie together looking as far as the horizon and back, too tired for love, recalling their ravenous desire changing to stronger desire, changing again to refinement that stays a long time, and they wait to be content to remember, they wait to be content with the tender unknown.

The tender unknown is a place we know, a village hidden at the city's edge, where questions float without answers because the people will it that way. Who are we? The oak tree in the park is dying. Where are we going? Someone on Clover Lane dreams about forbearance and shows up at the picnic in a sailor suit. What is the meaning of life? The girl from the projects hits the croquet ball toward the first wicket and it lands aslant of her goal.

Aslant of her goal, she goes to the book full of beautiful words. Debris, for example. It's all about rubble, litter, broken things. Yet, saying it forces your mouth into a smile. And try saying bruise. Your lips form a circle as if you're about to kiss someone. But we know its meaning doesn't come close to affection. She said this to her long time lover as they lay on the bed on the 16th floor. Too high up to see literal debris or the bruise on a stranger's arm, they spoke of the bruises of their childhoods, the debris of their past. Debris's not debris, bruise not bruise. It's what living brings us to, in time.

And, you know, in time, there's the possibility that bruises and debris, in the spiritual sense, are remade into the image and likeness of everything your daily life tells you is over, dead: twilight in a kayak with hours to think about what you owe one another every day. The sweetness of debris, the healing of the bruise — living returns us to these. We gather our debts. We pay things back. We give and receive. Righting the balance with every single breath, we do our part to steady the boat full of decorative words that, time and again, fall prey to the nobler, more naked and gracious "to be" — on the 16th floor, two alone thinking, just that.
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About Barbara Wuest

Barbara Wuest graduated from the University of California at Irvine MFA Creative Writing Program in Poetry in l986. While at Irvine, she received an Academy of American Poets Student Award for her poem “To My Brother in Hunting Season.” She won third place in the Billee Murray Denny Poetry Contest for her poem “Rubber Capital of the World.” She received an MA in Practical Theology at the University of San Diego in 1993. She and her husband moved to Wisconsin where she taught Writing at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She later taught English and Creative Writing at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. She also directed the Creative Writing Program there. Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals such as The Cape Rock, Wind Literary Journal, Western Ohio Journal, Laurel Review, The Paris Review, Cincinnati Poetry Review, Dogwood, CrossCurrents, Oberon, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Wisconsin Academy Review and others. She is a poetry editor for the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU) Journal. Her chapbook, Among Others, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She currently live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

7 Comments

  1. CHRISTINE GRAF
    Posted May 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I just LOVED the piece called Chicago. Beautifully done. I am a lover and writer of prose poetry and it is a pleasure to see such good work. The best to Barbara Wuest.

    • Barbara Wuest
      Posted July 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much, Christine.

  2. Jean
    Posted July 2015 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. Thank you for the poem of hope.

    • Barbara Wuest
      Posted July 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      You’re welcome. Thank you for reading “Chicago” and responding as kindly as you did.

  3. Posted August 2015 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Awesome poem dear Barbara, describes the Chicago so well,
    I never read anything so interesting about our beautiful city,
    Made with love in Chicago.

    Biggest Fan of Barbara Wuest,
    Shayari

  4. Posted October 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Awesome poem dear Barbara, describes the Chicago so well,
    I never read anything so interesting about our beautiful city,
    Made with love in Chicago.

    Biggest Fan of Barbara Wuest,

    • Barbara Wuest
      Posted December 2015 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      You’re very kind. Thank you.

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