Chicago Elegy

They said he came down the rail lines, sniffing the ghosts of pigs shuttled
in boxcars
to the slaughterhouse, and I can see that, because the ghost of morning bacon
lingers long in the kitchen,
and Magnificent mile after Italian beef joint he walked, until he
was suffocated
by North Side bungalows, flailing as he tried to perch himself on the clumsy
A.C. units
hanging off them like pimples, when, (this is where it gets good!) he was shot
—dead—by the Chicago PD.
The panicked policemen said "Tranquilizers? Pffft! The zoo's on the other
side of town!"
So they shot the cougar, tenderized bullets in all 160 pounds of him.
This happened after
I had moved away from Chicago, when it was cold there, so I put it together
with the cougar sniffing
at rabbit shaped clouds, or acting confused at the obnoxious plastic colored
playhouses in the backyards
and the children watching through lattice-worked fingers from the bay
windows, partially fulfilling
their dreams of seeing a live saber-toothed tiger; "Puma, Mountain Lion,
Cougar, it's all the same,"
the too-pretty reporter—reporting live—is reporting, maneuvering around
her long bangs.
Here, in Miami, the cold is uninvited, unshowered, sends the denizens into
a rage of scarves at sixty degrees.
There are no coyotes here like the one that settled itself quietly inside
a Quizno's,
sitting in the open cooler on 24 oz. sodas and Arizona iced teas, sick, lost;
something or other not good.
We watched along the decaled glass as the animal controller lassoed it with
his rod, hustled it to the van.
It must have been up all night howling at those toaster ovens, because
when we parted
to let it pass it was wide-eyed silent, mouth agape with terror at our pea coats
and 12 gigabyte camera phones.
No sandwiches for us; sadly, sandwiches are different in Miami, inferior.
I always explain
the Chicago Style Hot Dog to people, and these people keep telling me they
like ketchup on their hot dogs.
Nobody gets it. The joke, the silly one, the bizarre punch-line: dyeing
the Chicago River green
before St. Patrick's Day, the horrifying satisfaction of A) seeing a green
river and B) noting the artificial
color dissolve out of it each day against your green knapsack—Somewhere
in both of these cities
an older woman's darker roots are being exposed: Simultaneous panic
buttons—but back
in Chicago, the crappies in the River have three minute memory spans.
They endure the sudden cloudy
torrent of green dye, become terrified, blind, confused for a few minutes;
then the crappie brain-slate
wipes clean, and green is all that they ever knew. They will never remember
long enough to observe
the color fading out: the joke is on them, I suppose, but they won't put it
together, just as here,
where when I caught a gecko in my apartment I held onto his tail too long
before he met the shoebox—
his tail broke off and the rest scurried away, his chest pulsating, I didn't think
to put him back together,
so I stood there cupping his tail, letting it dance its death-jig in the room
my palms made.
And they did a DNA test on that dead cougar to find out where he came from:
more than one thousand miles from Chicago,
the western Black Hills of South Dakota—I can't say I blame him,
but it seems like a far way to walk,
for anything, especially death, and I think it's important to know that,
like how its important to know
that crappies have three minute memories, or how the picture of the coyote
was the background of my phone
for months and months, and that I loved it so much until I found something else
I loved better.
Whoa Yeah Baby
Dave Landsberger
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Whoa Yeah Baby

Dave Landsberger

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