Category Archives: Chicago

My Lawrence Ferlinghetti Story, part 1

The time: Evening, Autumn, 2002
The Setting: A reading sponsored by The Poetry Center of Chicago in an elegant building, downtown.

The facts of that day are actual, not just metaphorical. Here is my poem inspired by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s reading, which seemed to temporarily disrupt geography among other things, posted now in honor of his passing, at age 101, last week.

Let me tell you a story…

10/18/02

Ferlinghetti Speaks

Traffic is thick, but smooth.
Rain, not sleet, falls from mid-October sky,
trees reluctantly flame.
All directions lead to Rome.
Building disguised with scaffolding,
I walk past unnoticing and have to backtrack.
Remaining front row seats reserved
for important people, few do not come.
A woman, whose daughter is in a wheelchair,
removes her raincoat and umbrella from a prime chair,
offering it to me. I accept gladly.

Welcome. Introductions set the scene.
Gilded room filled and beyond.
Audience willing to be amused and amazed
with sharp use of language.
Ferlinghetti, blindfolded, steps groping onto the stage,
reading his first poem as if blind, but “cheats,”
turning pages as he reads. Or does not cheat,
reading from memory, turning pages for effect.
The crowd laughs, delighted at the ruse.

He continues, eyes uncovered now, twinkling,
having a good time—
born in 1919, still in mental prime.
About Willie Mays and Tito Fuentes,
about a dog who wants communion,
about peace and Prague, and painting with light.
Rapt faces of the audience upturned:
an unlined earnest Greek god face,
another face framed by fuchsia hair,
the faces of matrons, students,
artists, poets, professors, insiders, outsiders.
Now and then a camera flashes as he speaks,
hands clap after most every poem.
In expressive sing/song he reads eighty minutes,
stopping briefly for small sips of water from a sport bottle.

The poet dons aviator goggles and leather cap,
ending with “A History of Airplanes”
from Wright brothers and Lindy to 9/11.
He stops with a smile—pleased.
Admirers line up to get a piece of him to take home.
I consider the long line and turn to go. Outside on the street,
a dollar in a cup for an invisible newspaper.
Leaving in rain to meet husband waiting at train.
Parking garage machine will not take my card—
three times it denies me before letting me leave.
When I emerge, driving north,
the streets of Chicago no longer run in their previous directions.
Confused, I drive south on an east/west street
and keep circling to find my way until
I decide to go with what I know.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2002

From my poetic journal.

Tomorrow part 2, what happened next (well, more than a decade later).
My Ferlinghetti Story, part 2

From Across Michigan Avenue, Copyright 2012 by MD Mikus

Dinner with Geary–Connecting through Poetry

7/24/17

Dinner with Geary

On the good days
what comes between here and there
the before and after, now and then
the necessary transition
the clarifying calm after the storm
the personal and the political
is messy but manageable

On the bad days
fear overrides all good instinct
kindness mistaken for weakness
brute control at any cost, manipulation
mistaken for power and yet…
even here in abject darkness
a sliver of light, or a crack

that lets light in or a smidgeon of hope
What kind of question opens the door
to the path, not laid out in advance
but created new under each separate footfall?
Why tell you this—or ask you
to consider not losing hope, not despairing?

We are each a dot in a context
a deliberate point in a pointillist painting
It is the context, the perspective
I offer for consideration

And we are each a universe entire
autonomous yet connected in a web
of strands seen by some, felt by others
maybe you are one, if what you once knew
when you came here has not been pounded down
If you can still recognize what is true:
We were made for these times

To remember, hold to beauty, inspire
Not as in human cold marble statues
of superficial shallow perfection
but embodied spirits, warmly human
unwitting gods of creation, fragile and powerful
at least a bit willing.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2017

In looking for something else, I found this poem and realized I had not heard from my friend, Geary, in quite a while, since we had met for dinner at a favorite Thai restaurant. I realized I had not sent him the poem that came out of our conversation. I decided to email it to him to check and see if he was ok. He got back to me right away and had quite a story to tell. As he said, once again our lives were in parallel. Here is this poem for you too. What has inspired you lately?

Chicago Roof with Pigeon, by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2012

46–“Something Small” from “Frazzle”

From Inside Looking Out by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2015

“You can write a poem
about anything:

mundane, mystical, trivial
momentous, silly or banal.

A car in front of me
on a dark winter night…”

From poem 46, “Something Small,” in my book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. Listen here: https://youtu.be/9wJb73ytJmc

A poem can be a story, a portrait, an observation, a eulogy, a witness, an emotional rant, a philosophical musing or anything else in between. There are rules and they can be bent or broken. Anything that happens can be woven in, with threads from the past, present or future, both true and speculation. What you sense or think or dream or imagine…all can be made real, on the page. What character are you most like in this story?

For more poem videos from “Frazzle”

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

43–“Flying Geese” from “Frazzle”

Chicago Roof with Pigeon, by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2012

“The leader at the “V” point changes
so the responsibility of bearing the brunt,
breaking the flight path, does not fall on any one
even exceptionally strong goose,

but is borne by many if not all the flock in turn….”

From poem 43, “Flying Geese,” in my book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. Listen here: https://youtu.be/vhhNbGNMVMI

Timely…(and perhaps timeless) poem about innate responsibility and seamless connection, as seen through the lessons of nature. I wrote it in 2010, but it seems to apply directly to this week.

For more poem videos from “Frazzle”

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

17–“For John” from “Frazzle”

What do you remember about the choices you made and the chances you took to get where you are right now? Is this where you were headed when you set off?

Poem 17, “For John,” from Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. Listen here: https://youtu.be/4eHOAzWp-fw

For more video poems from “Frazzle”