Just Outside Chicago

“v904 (Faux Spirits Series)” Photo by Joe Lugara

By D.R. James

Just Outside Chicago

	—for Richard

You had that same odd-for-our-town
last name as who’s still my hero—
Lincoln—and everyone hated you, too,
except for me. For, once we’d waged

our own playground tussle, goaded by my
circling friends, we lived a calm paradox
that may have been my boyhood koan.
Detached, I could discern the archetypes

that struggled amidst our conflicted selves:
you, the white trash thrashing around
in the ring pre-fab’d for your kind—
the drawl, the hand-me-downs, the shack 

on that decrepit block; vs. me,
the Beaver Cleaver goody-goody
in a house with a mom who never missed
a moment to hear the teacher’s praise.

I wonder if you know that neither
of us would feel welcome now, not
at that school, where kids climb down
from cars the size of shiny rhinos,

or on your old road, which was dozed
to hold the high-tech city hall, or
along the river banks down your hill,
whose once spongy adventures gave way

to a paved attraction, crowds of strollers,
yogurt-cone eaters, crazed shoppers at their
wits’ end of extensive credit, shunning
their lives in honest Abe’s old Illinois.


—Poem first published in Lost Enough (Finishing Line Press, 2007)