“Carrol Avenue” by Joshua Ginsberg

You never promised
to make me a writer or an artist;
only that you would beat me like one –
backbreaking barbacking
reeking of beer and dragging ass home
just in time to curse the sunrise;
you hardened me to the clatter of the L,
showed me who serves
the best Chicken Vesuvio,
taught me to drink bourbon neat, and
where to find a stone mermaid
carved by the shore of Lake Michigan.
Whispered to me all the dirty things
you never told Sandburg.
On days so cold I thought I might shatter
you slid a warm sly smile into my pocket
waiting for a cab at Chicago and Milwaukee
while I read the inscription at the base
of Nelson Algren Fountain.
You lowered me down below the streets,
entombed so deep under
prairie style terracotta and concrete
that sunlight’s just a myth, where
you stole my teeth and wallet, left me
drained and dreaming, straining in the dark
to see through two bruised and swollen slits;

but it was there in the shadow of the bricks
of that rat’s nest palace of filth,
that at last you spread wide
your tarnished gold wings
and blessed me with
your secret face.

Joshua Ginsberg is a writer, entrepreneur, and curiosity seeker who relocated from Chicago to Tampa Bay in 2016. He is the author of “Secret Tampa Bay: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure,” (Reedy Press, 2020), and his poetry, fiction, and non-fiction has appeared in various print and digital publications. He maintains a blog, Terra Incognita Americanus and has been a business proposal and resume writer for over 10 years. He currently resides in Tampa’s Town and Country neighborhood with his wife, Jen, and their Shih Tzu, Tinker Bell.

Please note: Poetry is compressed to fit smart phone screens. If you are reading this poem on a phone screen, please turn your screen sideways to make sure that you are seeing correct line breaks for this poem.

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