|Jul/Aug 2019 Poetry Special Feature|
Multimedia artwork by Belinda Subraman
Back When Chicago Bars All Had Old Style Signs Hanging Outside
My young mother tore me
away from my library copy
of A Journey to the Center of the Earth
one Friday to see if I could get my stepdad
out of the dive bar down the block,
where he was pissing away a paycheck,
& my mother wouldn't be welcomed.
I was eight. Scared shitless.
I stood in front of the door for a while
listening to what was on the other side—
an argument & the juke box playing "Bad Company."
I made my descent into the unknown like Axel from my library book.
Back then, that Logan Square dive bar
served a patchwork of the working class.
The factory men—end of workweek drinkers
—back when Chicagoans made things.
Vietnam Vets. Cab drivers. Deadbeats. Bikers.
Old timers who shot at Nazis
flicking lucky strikes with tattoos
on their arms faded like lingering dreams,
drinking 7 & 7's & boilermakers.
I was given a glass of 7-Up with ice
& a cherry stabbed with a plastic sword,
like one of the boys, before a slow burn
switched them to
"Finish your drink & go" to "Get out!" Then "Go home to mama!"
The jukebox started The James Gang's "Walk Away."
As they laughed their asses off, I left that cavern of ape-men
never getting to the center of the earth.
That dive bar on Kedzie is longer there.
It's one of the nation's most celebrated places for brunch now.
Our replacements take pics of their plates. Can't even change a tire.
Nothing of what we went through exists except for this.