Chicago nights

something in the mind tells me I am overheating
singed neurons frazzle in the brain’s map
the pillow is a lump of rock
the mattress a tarmac road
my blanket is a collage of the cast skins of cicadas
my limbs reach out for air
my lungs expand for want of oxygen
my eyes bulge under prickling lashes and
I press down into the sackcloth vacuum of evasive sleep

the soaring fahrenheit of day barely tumbles in the night
heat accumulates overcasting my breath like clouds of fog
suffocating my thoughts of dreaming light
with would-be somersaults of washed-out energy
nouns are conjugated and verbs disagree with their subjects
facts are slashed across with half-forgotten memories of what was known
somewhere along the way

what was once so sure melts like skewered marshmallow in a flame
the race of time slows and sinks into the raucous din
of insect abdomens vibrating in an insect rally for a mate
the cicadas sing all day and night
competing with some imagined monster rival
the motors of air conditioning buried deep in concrete fabric –
drown conversation with their orchestral performance
the insect horde tunes its forte to crescendo pitch
in overlapping waves of night thermals

from their lofty perches they drill with incessant strokes into the tremors of night heat
while a lone cricket bells its piercing strumming to the heat haze
stoking up its symphony to mercury peaking in a glass
stranded in the still air it strikes a strident note
a monotone of something trapped
like the moth struggling in the heating duct its wings bruised in its panic
the panic in me

as the train’s siren wails its hooting warning across the prairie reminiscent of Western movies and
as the gargantuan refuse truck booms its heavy sweep of melting tar its tyres squealing in the traction
the pillow softens
the mattress relents and
the horizontal receives me
my limbs are abandoned stranded apart north west east and south
my brain is carded into felt

Then in a sudden the moth breaks free from its furnaced holding and
fills the night air with its dark fluttering

Before the day swells up like dough sweating in an oven
the piano tinkles its amazing grace with lilting cadence right to the final coda
then as morning proves itself again
its strains challenge the cicada to a contest
belting out its hymnal to the chorus of morning has broken 

the cicadas strum louder still so that
the beat of their tumultuous concert
is like the rhythmic throb of the first awakening
when primal earth first poured forth its molten mass


The season turns

a racket in the tall cypress
splits the sweep of its upper limbs
a ragged etching of graffiti
like a crown of thorns

a squall of crows squabbles
for a lodging on the bough
feathers ruffled by a blast of wind
flutter in a ragging breeze

the chain saw and the digger
leave their tracks of scarred earth
fences felled and soil turned over
by an intruding harvest storm

the path below is strewn
with a shake of sweet chestnut
blown along in rolls like wooly baubles
prickly green burst-open chestnut red
the vines stretched low with grapes
the ripening a ‘johnny come lately’
of Indian summer set a-trembling
at the shock of the bird scarer

the chestnut sprawl beneath my tread
lies amiss beneath the tall spruce
like cuckoo debris driven to the wrong place
by an indifferent tenant wind

I step over the hoard gingerly
in orange pumps reminder
of the summer almost gone
ablaze in the sodden grass

dragonflies on the bridge
prance in their final hours
the fishermen count the days
before the storm of autumn

and summer soon will be all gone


conversation with a fisherman:

the deer morph from leafy screens
shy, reticent and canny
to the changed air

the mole seeks its chance to forage
pragmatic swimmer carried
by strokes meant for digging earth

a rabbit flees from ferrets
confused enough to tarry
at the lake’s edge
before the necessary plunge

and all the while
leather carps indulge
slow, sluggish and unhurried
by the fishermen

all is hidden from the busy walker
the strolling mother and her buggy
the lovers wrapped in dreamy vistas
the couple with the wheelchair

they wow the swooping swans
they mew the gosling geese
survey the vines’ late ripening
and spy the parrot in its showy flight

and all the while in quiet diligence

the gardener trims and prunes and tidies
the steward notes the signs of growing stock
the groundsman checks for wear and tear
the fisherman plays hide and seek with fish

so that “when you good folk have all gone home”
the deer can morph from leafy screens
and retrieve the landscape as their own

“when you good folk have all gone home”