Three Poems from a Chicago Winter

By Christian Mack

“Orpheus Charming the Animals” by Peregrino da Cesena, 1490-1510


The heart sings a song
of black diamonds—
Beauty, nature-crafted,
ephemeral, barely lingering—
Onyx rose, glinting
obsidian thorns;
and Orpheus
twirling among the petals,
twirling in crimson,
twirling in shade,
rapturous vertigo,
how has she
come to be
so sharp?
And how does
Orpheus find the
resolve to dance on?
It is a matter of life and death—
or rather, between peace
and all other prospects…


In the grasp of winter,
Look, look at who rots
below that sun spewing
white hell, whose embers
Jagged, glinting
rake breast and eye,
lazily blown from the
depths of Heaven
by the thrashing
Of chill-fettered angels

Look, look, at the dead lark
The frozen throat, the eyes
ruby-stained, crying
‘Mercy, mercy!’
Lark who’s song
Crumbled ‘neath the burning
breeze — the weeping, the wailing;
how we shuddered.

And some Spring, what will
there be but the memory of
Lark’s songs? Morning’s warbling,
the song of lilacs
and violets, lost to the chatter
of engine and foot-to-ground,
of steel and brick and mortar,
static and murmurs,
and a hard heart will be born
of hard times — cold, callous.

The larks are dead:
day carries on.
the Sun saw, and
we witnessed
Heaven’s witnessing.
Perched, rigid,
at the peak of a snow-capped
Heart — and up there, Misery
Circles — waiting to feed
Again and again
and again,
on mute yesteryear.

So: silence rings—
Pale wind of winter,
the song silence sings.


It had to be three past 7
maybe, I think.
And I believe the sun
had just dipped behind
the office buildings and
bruised brownstones
that made up the view
from my cell.

Prison cell—
no amount of
incense (for the blunt smoke)
,or those little portraits of
Jesus or the Pope—
other sacreds and sanctifieds—
could give that dorm
a hint of sanctity

I mean really.
If they were up,
anyway, it’d really just
fuck up the vibe
Because I don’t need Francis or John Paul II
peer-reviewing my strokes—

anyway! Anyway.
Oh, yes. We were fond of
each other, maybe. I think.
As fond as two somewhat
acquainted strangers could be—
“months of awkward small
talk, silence in elevators,
sidewalk glances, conversations
about nothing, absolutely nothing,
the verbal brochures, compiling
the useless factoids of
the ready-made caricatures
of our day—
watching one another act
a TOTAL fool, crossed as hell
once in a few Saturday nights”…

Where was I? Oh, yeah,
yeah. Life was pretty good:
“Our times”,
they used to call it.
Can’t even be sure bout that
one no more, though.
best of times, worst of times.
The times we find ourselves in,
in any case. The time
given to us—no,
the time we made,
her for I, I for her—
gifted time. Treasured
I, uh. I think. Maybe.
Oh. Must’ve forgotten her
earring. Crazy—as I scrawl
it out, whole thing feels
Like it was just yesterday…

wait holup.


weed strong as hell.