3 Jun


On the barren, man-made gravel bar before the river, out the Green Line window looking South, just past the Metra tracks, whose steel rails splice themselves into one another before pinwheeling out into the countryside, and across the dark glass of the Chicago River’s South Branch, the foundation for an old factory, now renovated and converted, a giant brick trellis for third- and fourth-generation ivy, acting as the gate passengers pass through as they enter into the multilayered, mediated frenzy of the Loop, which despite its visible symptoms, seems too big to falter…

Just before all this, down on the gravel bar, a mother and her children. In the midst of the broken rock, walking over the gravel as if it were grass. Little ones in tow. Feet padded as well as webbed. Making their way from where to where? Maybe it’s a family trip to the river. Maybe they’re refugees, or believers on a global sojourn. Such order in their walk, no matter the reason. Not like us. The way we feel children run circles around us just to make us dizzy.

They made their way along, though they could fly. Mother in charge. The train continued across the river, past the ivy, into the land of the immortal.


Amid the barren, metal seats, which run the bus’s length in pairs, two spiry bobs, higher up than pigtails, and farther back, done up with glittery plastic and elastic bands, poking over the  seat, rotating like gun turrets as she spun from window to mama and back. Little shoes. Hair like her mother’s but lighter, fluffier, like down. The agitation of curiosity in her wiggles. Window. Mama. Window.

Lips a mauve, distinct in their shape in profile, as they purse and then pucker and reach upward, yearning for reciprocation, that good smack, or equally good smooch, or even the squelchier ones where their lips part a little and their undersides connect.

And mama, every time, turns to meet her, to smack and smooch and rub noses, attentive and willing, giving, even as she straightens and exists with us, here on the bus, and with an apartment, with furniture and dust bunnies under it, a fridge with food on the inside and bills on the outside, a job to go to in the morning and daycare to get to before that. The little girl turns her head and reaches out her arms and widens her eyes and puckers up and strains toward her mama, who strains back.


In a barren, back courtyard in Charonne, “Wet and Rusting” on guitar, saxophone, drums, and three voices—California in Paris.

Brick paving the courtyard, black metal rails over the windows above the planters, the stains of metal-heavy water on the white stairs. A couple bikes in the background, a few bottles on the ground.

An unidentified cameraman chooses the angles. Low to high. Wideshots. Close-ups. Then: behind you. Pan. Zoom. (Wait for lighting to adjust.) Walk.

Focus: happy little devils out in the street, looking into the courtyard, and getting down, the boy, darker than his sister, stepping and shaking and shimmying, clapping on the 1, rocking to and fro like the posessed, little legs stomping the asphalt, feel it, eyes not windows into his soul, but the spyholes for his soul to see what’s making it jump and jagger. The sister, in pink and the early stages of a kinky fro and at first nervous about this new man and his camera, decides to get to it, the saxophone too good to ignore—a good morning boogie.

After: applause. The mother continues on. Merci, the band says.

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