Big City, Little


North by the River
Robert Klein Engler

We walk down Michigan Avenue
on a December night--slow shoppers
huddled arm in arm below the midnight blue
in bundled coats and scarves of breath.

The Wrigley Building lights shoot thick
beams of gloss across the river,
they glaze with frost a wall of brick--
the bridge wavers with traffic.

A soft snow falls to the collected light
as couples stroll by windows,
stop, point out a sparkling of foil,
then look up to the snow as it bows

from darkness into light, white dots
descending, as if the world were not right
side up, but these notes were pulled
from a dark well by the draw of light;

as if these flakes were letters of a poem
assembling negative upon a page,
or cotton coming down to mend
a blanket for the night, making our age

forget its business, its separation,
the Siberian expanse of avenues,
this snow, frozen ration from the River
Lethe, falling on the city like dust

upon a memory, syllables of snow
sifted from the sky, that warrant
messengers from white to indigo--
a new world tender with the old.

(Robert Klein Engler's poems and stories have appeared in Borderlands, Hyphen, Christopher Street, The James White Review, American Letters and Commentary, Kansas Quarterly, and elsewhere. He won Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards for "Flower Festival at Genzano," (Whetstone) and "Three Poems for Kabbalah," (Fish Stories, II). A previous contributor to the magazine (June '01), he teaches at Roosevelt University in Chicago.)