Leaving Chicago by train at night

Haze of Beaux-Arts and
piss stench mingles with
              the fog pouring in from
the South Loop outside.
November is not cool,
it’s cold, fitting place and
season. All that Deco
              out there, consanguineous
with the fog, pervading,
far too Midwestern
Cold to abstract you from
the weary queue for the
Capitol Limited
stretching long around and
past the vending machines
before you.

              You may like
the cold, Northeastern boy,
in Boston, Worcester,
Central PA you knew—
but even in the snow
that’s still a dry cold.
Here by the lake it’s a
wet cold—a soaking cold—
and it chills you from the
              inside out as well as
from the outside in. You’ve
never fought a two-front
war like this, with this
humid gravitation
pulling on you from the
Six Directions and more,
your bones slogged all through.
Drowning now inside
Union Station, center
of this stone-and-steel
accretion on the Prairie,
              just know that your love’s for
              home—and home this never
was, or ever could be.
The Great Northeast never
welcomes you home with
open-wide arms, but it
will take you back and fit
you in not as if you
were a prosthetic limb
              but an original
fit that can grow in…

maybe not to stay—
              maybe never to stay…
but what ever stays
for very long? Life’s too
short to stay where you don’t
want it to unfold
as any less than a
              rhotodendron shoot
lopped off and sustained by
a tonic bottle
              full of tap from the
              kitchen sink. You’d thought
because you let others
think for you that you’d try
to uproot wholesale and
set down across the Lakes
and that didn’t take,
and there’s nothing left
to gain by staying,
and so why not just go?
              Still, the train ticket you
hold makes you wonder what’s
ever meant by “home,” what
ever could really be
a habitat you could
call yourself native to,
if it could all be stripped
away by accident
of such thefts worked into
the sinful structure
of our world? Accident
of capitalist
implosion? Nightmare
to occupy to change?
The world working itself
out from Right and Left?
              Or just dumb fortune, with
no special malice or
conspiracy outside
our own hurt projection?
              And what don’t we take for
granted till it’s gone
farther from sight than a
steel ghost fading with
dopplering groan and
              pinprick taillights
showing it was there
before it gets gulped
up by the pouring night?


Photography © Jennifer Matthews


Matt Stefon lives and writes north of Boston. His poems have appeared in the “poemfilms” that he uploads to his YouTube channel and in Oddball Magazine, the Unrorean, Coup D’Etat, and Wilderness House Literary Review, among other journals.

Jennifer Matthews’ poetry has been published in Nepal by Pen Himalaya and locally by the Wilderness Retreat Writers Organization, Midway Journal, The Somerville Times, Ibbetson Street Press and Boston Girl Guide. Jennifer was nominated for a poetry award by the Cambridge Arts Council for her book of Poetry Fairy Tales and Misdemeanors. Her songs have been released nationally and internationally and her photography has been used as covers for a number of Ibbetson Street Press poetry books and has been exhibited at The Middle East Restaurant, 1369 Coffeehouses, Sound Bites Restaurant in Somerville and McLean Hospital.