O Ballroom! I extol you!
Outside you, Burnham’s bridges
strangle up my native town. Inside—
Piano raucous rocking through the night!
And I survived
on a meager diet of paintchips
and our communal pinenut pudding.
All the time making up obstacle courses
(of course) for unicycling
across your wide wooden floors,
huge windows gathering up the open light.
O Ballroom! Lithuanian Ballroom!
The Texas Ballroom!
At the corner of Archer and Lock!
In the heart of Bridgeport.
You knew the Bridgeport Coffeehouse.
You knew the Bridgeport Bakery.
You knew the bicycles carried up stairways.
And the lull of the Stevenson, beckoning you
to stilted dreams at night.
Ballroom transformed into our home,
only partially constructed partitions, no solid walls.
All your interior architecture
falling apart like applesauce.
O Ballroom! With your splashed acrylics,
smashed glass mosaics,
trapeze artist spinning and
Bach’s cello suites spraying
out over Dylan’s crooning
from somebody else’s room—
You made me mad to be alive,
backdrop for a ballerina shoveling
all of life’s meaning into one enormous room.
Originally published in Anthology of Chicago, a literary project collecting poems and stories that evoke the spirit of Chicago’s many neighborhoods.