Luis Rodriguez - “Mother by the Lake”

To Chicago


I face a procession of limbs,

Songs of eyes and things,

Seeing myself in what is less in others,

Succumbing to curbsides and flailing pigeons,

Dying to the graystone facades,

To downtown’s naked topography.

Someone’s dreamed this and therefore dreamed me.

I face my demise in the water fountains

Where the homeless nest, where words are crutches

On weathered pages. Promenade with these words as I do,

Pressing my way through dankness,

Blinded by scattered sentences and meaningless grunts.

I’m nailed to the sidewalk by gazes,

Stopped by accusations in pursed lips,

Defying death by strolling.

Glass, gum spots, winged newspapers,

Cracked pens, bites of food, unbitten.

Save me, or get out of the way.



Mother, I can’t cry through ego.

I can’t find the sensual through plastic covers.

I’m only what I’ve coughed up.

I’m only the lamp without the light.

I’m only the sun’s stretching fingers

Pulling us up when standing.

We’d be slithering if not for this.

O Mother, I crawled on your belly

And you’ve held me ever since.

You the ground; Father the sky.

I’m going toward him even as you draw me

Toward your breasts. The sky can wait.

I’m nudging myself a space between dumpsters

And withered cardboard.

Mother, you’ve nestled me to these waters

And I can’t swim.



Soot-stained lyrics fill the crevices between brick.

El train brakes on metal rails make a sonata for junk dogs:

A blues that never stops.

Stray cats and black-eyed rats roam the unfenced yards.

I’ve fallen into cobblestone love affairs.

I’ve stared at bridges and viaducts and potholes

And wondered what planet I was in.

Murder here is the source spring of new life.

A gun is a character in the drama between screams.

Bullets make for great lullabies.

Market cart alley shoppers take all the best deals.

If heartache were a city it would be Chicago.

If suicide had eyes, it would be the lonely gaze

Of skyline at the edge of lake.

“Mother by the Lake” appeared in My Nature is Hunger:  New & Selected Poems, 1989-2004 (Curbstone Press, 2004) by Luis Rodriguez.  Copyright © 2004 by Luis Rodriguez.