Poems by Elizabeth Marino and Sally Evans
Chicago Calling 2011, read by Elizabeth Marino

4 October 2011
      See the video here
(Elizabeth is the last reader, the last  12 minutes on the tape)

We planned some of this programme for last year and added some new poems.
The Dance Hall is published further down this page.

New: Season of Mists

I thank you for your view of a view of autumn, Keats
who never saw your own autumn with its actual pitfalls.
Yours was the autumn of childhood, of hope, or romance, of belief,
my mother's autumn though not that of her hardworking family,
yours was never my father's autumn, season of mists,
and yours is not mine. My autumn
for all I would like to subscribe to your lavish play,
is like yours only in single ways each year,
perhaps there are swallows making a din,
or plums and apples falling wasp-eaten, unharvestable.
There is no sickle in my vocabulary or shed,
my autumn is based more on dread of the winter
and having had so little time each summer
to tidy or attend to the garden. Last year
early snow fell on flower baskets ditched from the street
and remained both snow and baskets until the spring
leaving me two seasons behind, without strategy
for a fast approaching repeat autumn, little wonder
and no chance to make anything faintly rhyme,
such is our modern poetry and life

Sally Evans

2010: My third collaboration for Chicago Calling! This is becoming such a pleasant annual event. Elizabeth Marino and I teamed up this year to present poems with a city flavour, on a simple theme: A mess O Poems: from now on, we will NOT have died young.


The Dance Hall
for Christopher Barnes

The dance hall was closed
and converted to cinemas.
A niche film was showing.
The two gay guys,
the only audience, seated
in one of the numbered auditoriums
along the blank corridor
sloped like forgotten foyers,
decided to jump in their shiny shoes
and dance to the soundtrack,
flamboyantly staging
a new event, unseen, unknown,
unadvertised. They brought the Astoria
fleetingly back to life
from its old, sleeping decades
of glitter and decadence
back here to breath, steps, sighs.

Above is the venue in Chicago we will be using. Elizabeth is seated in the middle with a red hat.

2009: I have had the pleasure of starting another collaboration with Jamie Kazay of Chicago for Chicago Calling 2009. Again I read with her via Skype. We wrote two poems about Venice, which we had both visited, and we hope to extend these into a sequence.
[Two jointly written poems to be added here]

  E-Trip to Chicago                        redflower    

collaborating for Chicago Calling Arts Festival, 1-12 October 2008


Via the pole, I look down to the angled view from the wing,
and wonder I let myself in for this adventure of words.
Once the action took over I was shepherded into the plane.
Here I am in a prison cabin bound for Chicago.
Comfort-crushed at the airport, collectors at the gates,
I parade into the unknown on a passenger walkway,
still reeling from the photographic panorama of the skies,
descended down beside skyscrapers grouped like circles
at Stonehenge or Callanish against the background of water.
This is the religion of the city, these structures herd
artists and workers from all origins, to places they may eat,
dance in or marvel at, others they will avoid, among
and through the life-giving stones, asking them for words
and lines of songs. I bring mine in propitiation.

Sally Evans



That mound behind the Episcopal church could be
a grave, but it isn't--just a pile of bricks and grass
from last year's remodeling that ran out of cash.
Imagine a graveyard elsewhere with tilted headstones,
and soft moss that glows green and seems to moan.

Below, and looking up from their bed of wrinkled ash,
skulls of the departed pretend to stare at the mildew
of December. The earth is heavy on the long stretch
my neighbors own, who once saw the galactic fire
of Christmas trees, and cut the ribbons of desire.

We read a star was over Bethlehem--house of bread
that confused hungry men. The eye is blinded by what
the heart must see. Yet, who saw the babe reach
for a handful of nails? Our reoccurring dream of loss
somehow figures in this churchyard and the cross.

Winter is at the rise--a new year but not a new man.
Leaves tumble into the mouth of night, the wind
scrapes away to the lake, then ripples and rescinds.
Carry me now figure of speech. Your scribe makes do.
Behind the clouds an ancient light breaks through.

Robert Klein Engler

SE In 2007, in the thriving seaport city of Aberdeen, 6th century skeletons were unearthed by archaeologists on a rescue dig at the Mither Kirk.

In 1907, my grand mother's brother Arthur with his wife Alice, from Shepherd's Bush, London, sailed to the New World from Cardiff.


Stand on a silent day
and let the morning be
an estuary that drains
to wide unnerving sands
and look on Cardiff bay.

This tatty magic tardis
leads by its memory
to views of history,
roads where lives converged
in toil and song.

Monuments to the new,
crumbled walls of the old,
tarred and broken stone
under floors, under wheels,
under salmon ladders.

Tides roll relentlessy
on cobbles, shanties, drums,
seascapes, paintings
move with the scenery,
then gates clang closed again.
In corrugated time
where blood and music flow
and gleam in love and tears
till all life sails away,
look last on Cardiff Bay.
Sally Evans


Each year turns, every year renews.
All variations of green shade shine
thousands in each of a million trees
meanwhile in hundreds of towns the travellers
wander through colours and darkness of their own,
grow, cohere and disintegrate, and spin
far from the boughs they were born under.
The Sun goes round, and the Moon, or seem to.
The far Milky Way cannot be aware
of butterflies or creatures it is shining on
in how many faraway worlds, or whatever their flora,
what lichens flower on their rocks lemon or rose,
buff and pearl, green. How can travellers survive?
They can turn back to sea like a long lived fish,
learning that through varied years they swim
at the surface of deep, deep waters under the sky
through currents and tides, all so simlar
in their sudden chasms, in what the waves let go,
who drowns or makes movement in summer or fall.
Only this facility to float, fate-blown, fearless
on a cool ocean, an ability from nowhere
can wash the blindness from them, proffer them
more than one beginning and end,
than one farewell, one April departure,
more than one snowy January welcome.
Sally Evans


Two bros, dressed in baggy pants and sideways
baseball caps shuffle between subway cars.
Born into a continuing madness, they look for

something like blood that is beyond them.
A Chinese man turns his eyes to a newspaper.
A woman eats her fries, pinkie finger up.

The train rushes from Harrison to Roosevelt.
Our argument of wheels and elevators goes on:
back and forth, up and down. Try to live this way!

I went to the bank and withdrew money.
Inside the bank there is a Starbucks.
Inside the Starbucks there is a McDonald's,
and inside the McDonald's, another bank.

I had reached the edge of our universe,
so, I turned back to a street decorated with
pine boughs and strings of colored lights.
There I see a crowd of men go over the bridge

that spans the river at Wacker and Madison.
Past the Opera House they follow
en masse,
like hogs hauled across the Bridge of Sighs.
Say, "Rubber baby buggy bumpers," fast.


She makes a swan dive to Lincoln Park Lagoon
wearing a white bathing cap and flippers.
The dark mouth of passion at the bottom bites,

then spits up her head. The body floats like a loose
balloon that trails along a watery string of blood.
An unknown moves among our plans and dreams.

The Butcher of Baghdad paces his cell.
Soon he will be hanged. Perhaps he ponders
heaven and hell, nervous the way a man who
is afraid to fly folds and unfolds his ticket.

The high whine of an ambulance siren clears
the street outside my window. A rope snaps
tight. Al Jazeera scrolls in Arabic the news.
Tonight, on QVC they keep on selling shoes.


A thousand trains a day rolled in, to grind
our parent's bones among the push of wheels
that glistened round like stockyard knives.

Father walks a mile to work, with aching bunions.
They say the Tempter leaves a trail from paradise:
one footprint garlic and the other onions.

Bulldozers move over the earth like an eraser.
This sandy soil gives up the legs of homes.
A Senator smiles. Our lack of hope's to blame.
Yet even here, just turn a corner in the Loop
and the fall of prairie light remains the same.

From his high office on Michigan Avenue
he looks down on Millennium Park to see
the silver Bean, the fountain and a twisted
bridge. They look like polished toys to him,
not the brave pose of men confused in time.

Chicago, Chicago, that one party town
plays the frozen music of all da Blues,
while Democrats draped in nanny gowns
join singin' and the clappin' in the pews.

They raise a new world of rebar, glass and steel
above the cobblestones, but not to worry,
in thirty years this too gives way to bones.
So, let's go, boys. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

The wounds of politics and love's betrayal
are like bricks and motor to a city's wall.
These are the scars of living any place:
You cut me. I cut you. It's either law or grace.

Robert Klein Engler

Photo: Robert Klein Engler

overhead railway -
snow and light on urban floor -
tall men leave footprints


*Naboland. Reinhard Behrens' great travel realm was created as an art installation, and this was the second poem I wrote on his work. The first poem was Shoes from the Sea, on his famous Clearances installation. Both these topics from Reinhard's work are certainly relevant to my E-trip to Chicago. Here are my words for Reinhard's Naboland, in an abecedarian poem. These were the contents of the explorers' hut, which also relentlessly emitted morse code.


A is for airborne, an arctic affair,
B is a box for a battered brown bear.
C is a clock that cannot count figures,
D is a desk for a diary, dumb diggers.
E is the earth through snow, etched in enamel,
F fur and a flask and a filigree camel.
G gives grey serge, grey print and grey sky,
H -- here's a hare-mould, hull, herbs hanging dry.
I am implements, inclement weather, and ink,
J just a journeyman, jugs in the sink.
K is for keys and kit, kindliness, knives,
L a lantern, electric light, leathern archives.
M is for mushrooms made out of mops,
N is for nails bought in Naboland shops.
O is our open door, overland laps,
P printing and postcards, people perhaps.
Q is for quarto, the quest for quality,
R is the radio set, rubric, reality.
S is for scooter, skull, sandals and socks,
T is three toeprints trapped in the rocks.
U useful, unusual, the used and renewed,
V is the valor-stove very much valued.
W a white wilderness, from window upwinds,
X marks the xenographer mapping his finds.
Y is a yarn of the yester and yonder,
Z zeal in the zone of a zillion wonders.

Sally Evans


They didn't have any 4015s at the supermarket,
so I had to buy the remaining large, naval 4012.
Some say the 4017s are better for salad. Not me.
Remember, a 4015 a day keeps the doctor away.

Have you ever tried these new 4012s?
I refuse to buy a genetically modified #8.
They say one day that's all we will eat.
Life off the grid will be impossible.

Descartes was right: Everything can be assigned
a number on a graph. Time and space. You, too.
Don't think you're special because you walk
hand in hand in love like two 5654s in a pod.

Robert Klein Engler

Here is a traveller, a fugitive, taking with him his supplies of city shoes to the wildest island:

Box upon box of my hand-made shoes are a marvel on Eriskay.
Smiling, barefooted children skip by my stone-built crofthouse.
On warm grass, I watch fishwives, sea-bird hunters and boatmen
slave for their innocence in a primitive paradiso.
Holed up in stone igloos we keep out the weather in winter.
Under my delicate thatch I wind my gramophone music.
Our palace stood beyond the clinking glass of Vienna.
Then, with the century's turmoil, my family turned against Hitler,
so I fled in my shoes and led my acquaintance to Melrose.
Where in Europe is safer? Shoe-shaped portents and warnings
followed with each memory, delight, hope, music or fashion.
Now, no more Mayfair shoes, but drifting at last onto Eriskay,
I find my feet.

                                            Sally Evans


A morning light hangs gray above the lake,
while gulls fly west before the noonday heat.
The song of blackbirds and sparrows alternate,
and then a bus drives up the empty street.

It's always good when summer's green appears:
that patch of ground by the expressway underpass--
the park where yuppies walk their nervous dogs--
how suddenly those lawns turn dust to grass.

If I, like that, could dull the tint of memory
then I, too, may green. One stays, one goes;
another waters and another weeds the rows.

Now, sunlight spills across the windowsill,
to show the shell of what the spider caught.
When all the scales fall, our loss weighs naught.
Robert Klein Engler


Shoals of words
pulled like ropes
from deep seas
till there are few
or no shells left
on the pearly shelves
where soft anemones
gleam, and are shown,
examined, drip
salt water down
then are thrown back
where they belong,
under a seabird's
cold pebbly song.

Sally Evans


Buy this shrink-wrapped honeydew melon,
or this baby food, and later, something
to mask the perfume of pee on flannel robes.

Communion wafers guide the old woman who
pushes the jail of her shopping cart, while a lava
of mumbled prayers follows her down the aisles.

The magic of money brings it all from far away.
Perhaps she picks a sprig of mint and then holy
singing issues from the shelf as a fresh spray

mists the celery. Is that your mother planning
a thousand meals? She buys those pasta shells
because she likes them so much. All the rest

is habit: fig bars for her son, grapes for her
daughter, beer for her husband who drinks.
See how her hand opens the freezer door,

but the consummate moment evades her reach.
Heavy bags of charcoal and kitty litter rest
like stacked tombstones. The hand that peels

the orange stroked his hair at night like a hand
come down from heaven that someday feeds
our human hunger with milk and honey.

Raise up boys and girls orphaned to desire
and open the airtight disappointment of nuns.
Broken glass like broken hearts scatters

on the market floor. Here is the cold geography
of loss: a voice then interrupts the Muzac
to announce her fall, "Cleanup in aisle three!"

Robert Klein Engler


I broke the rule and composed this poem straight onto the page, then lost it. I had to remember the newly written poem again. Now completed, and almost exactly the same.

I am not unfamliar with this city,
so cosmopolitan, half safe half dangerous,
a playing field for businessmen from everywhere,
from London, Canada and South America.
I see the fountain dancing in the evening air.

It minds me of the Bracklinn falls, the Badger falls,
of tall trees on the woodland walks in Perthshire,
the wind on clifftops blowing back the spray
of spouts descending to the sea on Skye,
of Border rivers and the Grey Mare's Tail.

I glimpse the springs beside blue-flowered braes,
I walk in secret through the wilds of Lomond,
the Clyde drops clean  by the Pacific Quay 
in that reformed and modern city, Glasgow,
and moving water lights a square in Edinburgh.

Though I am Scottish in my heart of raindrops,
I know our international languages,
familiar with that other language, custom,
the one all men and women learn to live and play,
and I am looking for a restaurant

where I can eat with pleasure in my corner,
a reasonable Thai, Italian, Mexican,
Japanese, French or all American
restaurant filled with accents, tongues from anywhere,
New York, New Orleans, travellers from everywhere.

This night, this table and this waterfall.
Though other fountains flow, and other meals
will overlay my memories as time goes on, 
and though each moment slides away forever,
this day and place is more than any other.
Sally Evans

* I had wanted to do a poem set in a restaurant - I could bring in cooking from other countries - I am sure Chicago's food is cosmopolitan. Someone arrives from Italy and finds a local restaurant... the restaurateur remembers his family back in Venezia perhaps...but thats a story rather than a poem.
If you meet a man of the way on the road, you can't greet
him with either words or silence. What do you do? -- Julian Skinner
you might
become visible
become invisible
offer food
accept food
offer water
accept water
offer wine
accept wine
ask for help.
                       Sally Evans

This scarlet sculpture -
a rose or an archway melts.
My words need pictures.




I read these poems via Skype with Robert at the Chicago reading, October 2008. The final haiku relates to Robert's photo at the top.