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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 29, January 31, 2017
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Still Life, Chicago


by Gary Wilson




On my way home from the Art Institute, I pass a crowd pressed against the railing of the Michigan Avenue bridge.  I watch as groups form, poses are struck, shutters whir and click, here and there camera phones rising heron-like above the fray, capturing or not a future glimpse of blue police boats bobbing like giant insects on the April-green water below, icy amber eyes flashing as they pair up stern to stern to corral the netted though still submerged form between them.  Two figures emerge from the swarm of black-vested minions scurrying to and fro—one to keep taut a line to the waterlogged net, another to gaff the bundled shape, inching it ever closer to the small platform at their feet.  Soon legs appear, white and large as alabaster columns, a shadowy mop-haired head with what might be a longish grayish beard and little enough of a face, a bare left arm, cocked at the elbow and raised slightly in a wave.  A bus rumbles past, the bridge deck ripples underfoot.  Someone says sum bitch just loud enough.  Giggles, titters, nervous glances at the torrent of water from a storm sewer outlet on the south bank, a sudden gust of cold wind shivering the surface of the river.  A boyfriend pushes his girlfriend against the railing.  She screams. Bodies on the boats tense, heads swiveling to locate the distress, before they look back down, relieved, and go on about their business of bagging remains, noncompliant as they are, finishing with a final zip, but for the arm which continues its solitary, frozen salute, even as the boats dance apart and idle upriver under the bridge and the crowd disperses, rejoining the northward flow of shoppers along the Magnificent Mile.