Chicago and December By W. S. Di Piero

Trying to find my roost   
one lidded, late afternoon,   
the consolation of color   
worked up like neediness,   
like craving chocolate,   
I’m at Art Institute favorites:   
Velasquez’s “Servant,”   
her bashful attention fixed   
to place things just right,   
Beckmann’s “Self-Portrait,”   
whose fishy fingers seem   
never to do a day’s work,   
the great stone lions outside   
monumentally pissed   
by jumbo wreaths and ribbons   
municipal good cheer   
yoked around their heads.   
Mealy mist. Furred air.   
I walk north across   
the river, Christmas lights   
crushed on skyscraper glass,   
bling stringing Michigan Ave.,   
sunlight’s last-gasp sighing   
through the artless fog.   
Vague fatigued promise hangs   
in the low darkened sky   
when bunched scrawny starlings
rattle up from trees,   
switchback and snag
like tossed rags dressing   
the bare wintering branches,   
black-on-black shining,   
and I’m in a moment   
more like a fore-moment:   
from the sidewalk, watching them   
poised without purpose,   
I feel lifted inside the common   
hazards and orders of things   
when from their stillness,   
the formal, aimless, not-waiting birds   
erupt again, clap, elated weather-
making wing-clouds changing,   
smithereened back and forth,   
now already gone to follow   
the river’s running course.

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