Literary Hook: Celebrating Carl Sandburg’s birthday

By Christine Swanberg

Author and Poet

Jan. 6 is Carl Sandburg’s birthday. This beloved Illinois poet has touched many of us with his poems, particularly those set in Chicago.

In honor of Sandburg’s birthday, I dug out a poem I wrote nearly 20 years ago. It celebrates Carl Sandburg as well as Chicago.

The poem was first published in Strong Coffee, a Chicago newsprint celebrating the arts of Chicago, similar to our very own Rock River Times. The poem was also published in The Tenderness of Memory, a collection produced by Plain View Press in 1995. My gratitude to those publishers.

Ten Minutes on Michigan Avenue

A full moon loops

around Buckingham Fountain.

Horns muffle, evaporate

into Lake Michigan, holding

cement monoliths so bold

I wonder how a woman

could love this city.

The brusque wind has killed geraniums

potted in the sidewalk café’s white boxes.

Sipping cappuccino, hot froth of milk,

surprising January splash of sun:Why

does this city comfort me,

small woman with a past

a hundred miles away?

Here I am the golden phoenix

of my dreams, drinking elixir

from a bone-white cup,

watching another woman

wearing a blue beret,

her face large, lunar and pale,

ruby lipstick startling as the siren

that slides from my periphery.

Anything can happen here:

Matisse to murder.

Sandburg’s thumbprint

or a lighthouse blinking

under moonlight in the fog.

From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue

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