Stim Table

I went on a date the other night–we began in the parking lot, with a sweet, sad, dark contest over whose disastrous, paper-strewn automobile reflected a greater climactic achievement of mental distress this past winter. There wasn’t a winner, so we played rock-paper-scissors, which I lost because I thought. We’ll say for now that it just isn’t right–there could be things on the outside keeping it from falling into place, but the truth has always said that I will simply know.


Our descent at State & Lake was staggered: meant,
in the late sun, for a different El train,
I left my last sorry wave for the stairwell
to the north. Inside, a rumble luffed the molding:
like the washing machine gone mad with torque
that danced itself across our tile floor. Five steps
to the platform and the flash of the tracks, I broke
at the wall, pressed my mouth between its stones
to know how they were sealed.
Underground damper, it kept me
flat placid as the station teemed and stilled.

The cavity, I saw, was dark and double-barreled, track-by-track
in opposition. Small lots of light bridged the lines
through cut-out bends. I strode to the right,
stricken feet and narrow field of vision,
counting five archways to, yes, the one where he stood—

feet shoulder-width apart
for the southbound train, squared off
on a storm drain. The corrugated iron stencil
pebbled just the same beneath my toes, too—
our mirror-box. And then he fit his eyes to mine.
In strange suspension, I rode out
an absent roar. Upheld by some great twinning
and a halfway waltz, we reflected silver limb to limb.

Planted in low gardens, I could feel the station through the floor
and it strummed low at our spine, for parting, for
he and I are of the same tribe—rock paper scissors:
paper scissors, paper rock.

The tremulant flaw came Howard to Dan Ryan,
to misalign the tether and the sweet. I laughed and he laughed too,
palm to palm with a great tin bullet in our midst.
One window had the last flash. Later, on the #74,
I would contract a yawn from a two-tone bulldog
in a pick-up bed, and love it just as much when it had passed
because I did not run to catch them.

It was very nice to have someone to talk to about the blue, which conscripted us all to its silent face force this past year– the boys grew insufferable facial hair and I grew weak and quiet, unable to reach the buoys I’d counted on so happily in the months previous. I think, excepting Alejandro and incomprehensibly to his credit, we’re all recovering as the days get longer and the hope returns. We called our mothers together from the sidewalks. I wondered a little whether others play detective the same way I do, or if we’ll always just be worlds apart.

“Let’s create a system of justice,” I said to the stuffed toucan-ewok.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Thunderdome!”


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