January 2021 — “Alfalfa”

A wild, infamous wind strafes the long barricading blocks

That lie along Lake Michigan, like steps built for giants

Across the edge of Hyde Park

A divining-place, to be walked with a dowsing rod


I see, as I sleep, a woman there, sitting in the brittle grass

Shadowed by two black-glass obelisks risen to house adjunct professors and itinerant violinists

A considering place, to be stopped at, scanning up towards downtown and down towards the south side

A dividing place, to be lived in by those containing selves within selves


I see, as I sleep, the woman stand up and go to a post box

It’s painted fresh but the paint was used to slosh over the slot

No mail is sent

A stenciled message notes: “This item left in place for the convenience of city bikers”

The woman wants to shake it and feel if somehow, perhaps

Any letters were still inside when it was retired


Someone drives by, windows down, and she hears a piece of the news of the day

She hears a word or two, it sounds like hens and gamebirds

It sounds — she smiles at it — like the dawn of the tardigrades

It sounds like what mother warned us about


All the boys in class who pinched her as a girl

Back when she was a person

The women in Boston with their church sashes shouting at buses, 1976

“Never, never!”

When she was a schoolgirl

All the fuss and consternation

So much clucking and cooing, scratching at the alfalfa on the ground, clawing at the wire fence

Dawn of the tardigrades, she laughs again

Finds a little piece of wall, remounts her sign, sits, wraps up,

And nods at passersby