“Chicago (After Ginsberg),” “When You Spot Your Flower” and “The Spring-Bringer”

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Chicago (After Ginsberg)

Chicago I fell in love with you at first sight in May 1975.

I wore that green dress and you wore the Lake.

You were the Big Man in the Midwest.

I was 15, you were 138.

I gave you the best years of my life when I thought you had given them to me.

All I wanted was to be an extra in any of your movies.

Are you gaslighting me?

Is it the age-gap Chicago?

I just wanted to grow old with you.

Even when my job went remote I stayed with you.

I don’t know my sugar daddies from my F-boys I guess.

Chicago your machinery is too much for me.

How did I fail to notice?

I have been cheating on you with Cape Cod/Key West/ Santa Barbara/ Coronado/ Rome/ Berlin/ Dublin/ Paris and our bumpkin neighbor Door County.

How did you fail to notice?

Chicago do you even care so long as I pay my taxes?

These days everything in my brain turns into urban country western blues.

Chicago I’m tired of defending you because it makes me sound codependent and pathetic hitching my wagon to a flashy con man.

Your rep is so bad you are gonna get canceled.

You just sold one of your newspapers to a hedge fund and I can read the graffiti on your wall.

Has Navy Pier swallowed you?

At least you still provide every citizen with their own pet rat and optional illegal firearm courtesy of Indiana.

Chicago I worry you are my soulmate and I don’t know it or that I think you are but you aren’t.

Chicago I did not sign up to be your sugar mama your nurse with a purse now did I or maybe I forgot I keep forgetting how forgetful I am getting.

Everyone on Next Door is already gone looking down from their perches in Schaumburg and Florida still obsessed with you.

My 99 Walk Index Score is no longer keeping me warm at night.

Chicago I always loved your sense of humor but not everything is a joke.

What was the moment it all started to go wrong when Richie sold the parking or way back in Council Wars?

Chicago I know the edges beyond your sweet ganache lakefront were always hard and rough.

I’m not a fool just a fool for you.

Chicago I feel like it’s gonna be me or you and I’m still not sure whose side I’m on.

When You Spot Your Flower

shooting sunward, every word:

redacted, rejected; yields a dozen pages

more. There are so many ways to mother:

watching ice melt to water, water gather

itself to steam, reason yield to mystery,

crassness to mastery, over and over,

predictable and varied as dawn.

You want to be a baby again; you want

to be new? Nurse your yearning

and starve ambition:

I double dare you.

Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lives;

and I swear, clever friend, when I find

my orchid, whose very roots need light,

I’m going to ask her to dance, gamble

for gambol, because, in the end,

where it matters, what's the difference

between laughter

and prayer?

The Spring-Bringer

breaks dawn a little earlier every day. waking you like a sweet puppy you train

without even trying. Cues robins. One morning you smell his breath, botanical, and its nuance caresses you like a shower, thunder and all. Who’s training whom? He’s the cruelest flirt

in the wasted land: literally blowing hot and cold; your stagnant bits thaw, terrible/ slow /lovely

(just like Mrs. Parker said). That thing, those things, all the things you gave up without meaning to and then like riding a bike you ride them all; you pick up all the abandoned brushes, paint (house) and paint (art), and hair and toilet, and even if− hell− especially if, you don’t believe that Jesus is risen, something has risen in your own doughy limbs.

Praise that breadcrumbing, immature, inevitable spring-bringer for dampening air,

softening earth, budded tree; crocuses you bend to stroke to life; the colors green,

and green and green, and pink and yellow and violet;

that old May song ringing from every tower!

After Thomas Lux’s The Joybringer

About the Author

Julie Benesh

Julie Benesh is author of the chapbook ABOUT TIME published by Cathexis Northwest Press. Her poetry collection INITIAL CONDITIONS is forthcoming in March 2024 from Saddle Road Press. She has been published in Tin House, Another Chicago Magazine, Florida Review, and many other places. She earned an MFA from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and received an Illinois Arts Council Grant. She teaches writing craft workshops at the Newberry Library and has day jobs as a professor, department chair, and management consultant. She holds a PhD in human and organizational systems. Read more at juliebenesh.com.

Read more work by Julie Benesh.