Poem Down Armitage Avenue

Chicago. Mid-February. 9:42p.m.

 

Sound like damp
thud-crunch over my shoulder.
Plastic bag under tire.

 

H
    U
        E
            S
The graffiti on the side of the taquería’s green awning.

 

Snow’s gone frozen and gray,
piled into Rocky Mountain banks on the sidewalk.
Holds tight a white torn-off car bumper.

 

St. Augustine College:
               twelve windows, one story.

 

Tore the page
trying to make ink show up.

 

So many craft-brew cardboard six-pack labels in the bar window.

 

Blinking hazards behind the crook of my elbow.

 

Can’t warm up at the laundromat—
it’s closed.
Walgreens it is.

 

Notice the arced lamps curved
like broad violin fs
hang banners with pictures
of waving American flags,
say “Hi-Fi Video.”

 

Here’s a guy buying kettle corn
wearing a bicycle helmet over a wool hat
and three coats.

 

Lady with turquoise hair-tips stocks makeup.

 

So many assortments of foundation.
I don’t need anything here.
Feet planted in Cosmetics,
head down and doodling.

 

Avoided eyes with Turquoise Lady who rolls
a cart away—gramble-rattle cart sound.
               I should buy something.
Singing heart-shaped balloons
if you press the button.
A done-up mannequin head
sporting a Chicago Bulls hat.
Merengue, then
light sax jazz.
               What will fit in my pocket?
               I always need lip balm.

 

There are—no shit—68 varieties of lip balm here.
Buy the more familiar brand
at the lowest price point: Blistex.

 

WIC center is empty.
The lights are still on.
Four rows of stackable
and folding chairs.
Rows and rows of Kix
and bags of dry beans.

 

An awning says:
Armitage Melding & Hardware, Inc.
Sign above the door says:
Orlandi Valuta
Envíos de dinero $
Poster in the window:
                       A
                    BABY
                 Changed
               Everything.
(Mary in blue and white in the family way.)

 

Hands going cold again.

 

Key-shaped cutout in the window.
Models in Gucci sunglasses in the window.

 

Thought I saw cop lights over my shoulder.
The “OPEN” sign LEDs of La Bomba.
Smiling cartoon beaver on the side of a brick two-flat,
five feet tall striking a “That’s All Folks” pose.

 

Marquee:
CARIBEF E LHOME

 

Watch a Goya tomato sauce can
grow four times its size
on an LED screen
at the corner by the minimart.

 

Lucky Vito’s Pizzeria sign.
I never noticed how the red arrow
where the phone number is written
points to my apartment
when I’m three and a half feet
from the north side
of the southwest corner
at Kimball and Armitage
and my right arm is set
to hit the traffic pole.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Matthew DeMarco is a writer, editor, and educator living in Chicago. He is a recipient of the Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize, for which his work has appeared on Poets.org. His poems can also be found in Columbia Poetry ReviewGhost City ReviewLandfill, and elsewhere. Poems that he wrote with Faizan Syed have appeared in Dogbird and are forthcoming from They Said, an anthology of collaborative writing from Black Lawrence Press. He tweets from @M_DeMarco_Words.