Small Exile

Chicago when I picture you it is always winter –
your dark heart improbably pumping
under the whitewashed roads, thick
and slow as sleep.

Lakeside the waves have frozen into cryptic
gestures—but of welcome or forbiddance
who can say? The storefronts diorama
quiet—even the tables have put their feet up.

In that hour between snowstorm & salt-
truck, when you wear December
like a delicate shawl, you hold your gloved
hand out as to an unfamiliar dog –

some far-born beast, made secretive
& wild by glass & steel; lost to the pack
& hunched in your rabbited corners.

& so you affect disinterest,
as if standing shoulder to shoulder,
looking out through the wrong sides
of door signs, everything backwards,

the OPENs, the CLOSEDs, the neon
Santas chanting OH         OH          OH –

                O City.
Learning to love you
is like inventing a religion:
All the good sacraments are taken
yet the broken still arrive.

I was the iron of unlit lampposts
& you wrapped your skein of tiny lights
around me          just so the snow
                                                small exile
could watch itself fall.

Laura Ring is the author of Zenana: Everyday Peace in a Karachi Apartment Building (Indiana University Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in RHINO, Rogue Agent, and Rise Up Review, among other places. A native Vermonter, she lives in Chicago.

Laura’s work previously appeared in November 2014.