Chicago 1985

Here are the parrots, she says, which Mayor Washington,
the Mayor of Chicago,
in that apartment on Lake Michigan
(a sunny seventh floor), here are his parrots
on South Shore Drive. Mayor Harold
Washington, he lives there when he’s here
but his parrots live there all the time
in their parrot apartment house
which looks like a bale of hay in a tree
with doors in it with parrots in them.

That’s what she says, anyhow, and he says
his Old and Lousy Railroad Joke. And here
it is, he tells us. Man comes into little
southern railway station. “I’ve got to
get to Chicago in the worst way.” “Take the Nickel Plate.”

Yet not to be outdone, this third voice says
his Early Early Sixties Joke to us.
and Mayor Daley I are in a chopper
over Lake Michigan fairly near O’Hare,
The engines conk completely out,
and there’s only one parachute.
So they vote on who will get it,
and Mayor Daley I wins, nine to four.

On a Fairfield Porter day, she says,
a qualified Yankee writes this trope of flight,
which dedicates itself to Steve
Goodman, who wrote “The City of New Orleans,”
who came from Chicago, the city theme and text,
and adversary subject matter, where Hoosiers
range all along the southern border.