Requiem

for Kenneth Fearing

Elizabeth Hatmaker

 

45th and Wood
back of the yards,
the crimes
vaporized in the noise.
Two boys missing
Gone, howling
in the sound, along
The Tri-State, default.
The names of tragic
persons
or banal
circumstances of
the past
are the business
On WBBM AM 780,
in the ether, the
cell of silent technology before
the business of sports, Nasdaq
ideostructure
the uncertain overpass, the bridge
over Des Plaines
anomalous processes of
information or energy transfer
breathing in the steam
of endless language, in anonymous
classrooms by the highway,
disappearing in the hiss,
dawn of news time, the
noon of
business hour.
At 11:04 a.m. we hear:
Vernon Hills, IL police station,
in our listening area, in
early morning, a man
with gun with
throat cancer,
“I hurt and I couldn’t do it by myself”
I imagine the impossible.
And yet we hear howling
outside the wires
of the walls,
of the water
of the want
of classification,
coast to coast AM
paranoia at 2:32 a.m.,
outside the
car at the edges
of Chicago’s
comprehension.

And I see the billboard
and then the college
by the 80, 55 Weber
near Old Chicago
rebuilt land, nothing
left but history but
the buzz, the miles
of used cars,
mile marker 26-something
jammed, so use Harlem or LaGrange
you’re welcome
on the 290 feeder, off  Weber,
in that college next to the highway, the eyes
of missing reflected in
students’ eyes,
their names a blur
of their time on hours
so we are haunted by
direct sensing
of remote events.

At 4:33 p.m. we hear: last night a man, 85
shot wife, 83, and two
middle-aged children.
Neighbors reported him
a quiet man, his
health failing,
he couldn’t continue
to care for himself, his sagging house,
rips in the girders, the
failure of hands and arms,
or his two disabled children.
and his
story is repeatable
for a set of hours
amid 1-800
donate your car
chatter because
WBBM cares
about cars and kids
and we’re seeing no delays
spur ramp slow
Lake/Cook to downtown
Kennedy 33 from O’Hare
8 in express
Mannheim to Harlem
Cicero, give or take to
the S&P is up and down
the voice of metal on
throat cancer
on the failing
rings of metal around
the city.

In retro dreams, Chicago is the familiar architecture
the highways running at impossible angles of
blind exits, the wallpaper underneath the
layers of family infrastructure, bodies of
water over the ancient Greek statuary
because
this is our lives’
containment and
the wallpaper, the water damage,
The empty street
outside the Thorndale,
Along where
Milwaukee meets
the executive airport
at the hour,
those missing kids
along the highway again and
again.
Colleges subharmonic
synchronous in
the watered amp of missing.
You look to the back of your class
but your boys
are out
on the highway, you
imagine
their substance only
when you half-remember
their story,
interview at 11:32 p.m. or again
2:34 a.m. and then George Noory
or old radio mysteries and the night lonely
and then sound lost
to rotting gravel
and wet wallpaper, traffic
then sports.

It’s out at the 8 and
in from 6 to 11,
desire’s ear/
the double plot of
Noir.  The flesh of no future
at your convenience and
in your rotted books
and images. In the shadow,
outside the 80/55 cloverleaf,
hidden by trees, a house built
in intermittent good years
a structure nailed
to a house, to a dwelling,
rooms and doors emanating
from blasted-out walls and this
is another failed body,
wires in this body run to lights that
don’t work
in the dark, and the radios
of the freeway outside buzz
with the talk
of aliens, the rhetoric
of mystery, and in the dark
of bodies
our ears are peeled
for our missing.

And what happened
to my life?
In the whine/ my limbs jump
at the words, in the fog of the hiss
at the stories of others
entering my finger, joined
the sound
recruitment and amplitude,
a distal motor nerve travels
to the anterior horn cell, and
a response
fires back
and I hear it
the heart of
the dead on the radio
the girl who burned
up her grandmother
and herself with a
lighter on accident
on the south side
88 in the wildness
in the cop shop
guns to other/ needle to the muscle
and it jumps
and the sound transmits out
please let me be a part. Let
me find
my old friend
who raped a college student
this summer
and I was missing when they read
his name at the hour.
I don’t know if he’ll
go to prison, if he exists as what
I know, what
his vitals have gone
and made him do.

Here I drive all alone
falling off of chart
unheard by needle or test or
conductivity experiment
I can hear
I am alive
in the wire air
wire to atmosphere to arms out identity
to the cell
caught transmission
I hope it crackles in
the atmosphere
with feeling as the
analog fades into meaningless shattered
sound—there’s no way to extend the metaphor
further—no way to talk about
the death of the social on the ear.

This is what I believe I believe what
I hear I believe the fictions
between the words where people go missing,
go dead, go
buried and gone under a
world of commerce,
the brief amusement
of the dead space.
transmission
of goods—unit to whole—
this is the problem
of strength and recruitment, one bad nerve
on the system, the weight of the gods.

It wasn’t all
that strange, that living range
between
static and audibility, between popular
Chicago radio stations—
de facto public spaces—that phase out
at 80. This is
not a story about
Illinois and yet
here Illinois is,
barely cement,
a boundary
or interzone,
nothing I believe,
nothing nourishing to
the body politic,
nothing sustaining, just
a sense of
cause/effect like
the neurons firing,
the radio voices
at the points of tension.

And the river
current trolls out
and other bodies from other
sad stories reach
up from the Des Plaines
toward the bridge,
merely a reflexive action,
no muscle strength, no
body political,
no flesh ears.
Refinery to the right
and cemetery to the left.
The bodies of stories,
eyes full of not here,
of voices of bodies
that roll down to
our rivers and highways
into the metal and sick earth,
a trip south to
“the bottom of the world
where people fall who are
alone, or dead,
sick or alone.
alone or poor,
weak, or mad, or doomed,
or alone.”
We sense the
industrial beams
falling to earth. When
we smell the rust
from the Des Plaines and
feel I-55, scorched at
guardrails, curling in at
the metal edge.
And as you head down I-55, as
three lanes turn to two, your car
drops swiftly
towards the Des Plaines.
On the left
a shimmering and
silver brightness from
the ExxonMobil
plant at Arsenal
and it will seem to you,
as the lonely death of others sizzle
through your radio,
as a magical city all its own as
your story turns to fuzz,
you flatten out, your car speeds
towards the dead exit at
Braidwood, and then noses on toward
someplace that is
not here.

 
 

Elizabeth Hatmaker (1970–2017) is the author of “Infrastructures” (Downstate Legacies 2017) and “Girl in Two Pieces” (BlazeVOX 2010). Her poetry is featured in “Life As We Show It: Writing on Film” (City Lights 2009), ACM, Bird Dog, Epoch, MiPOesias, Mandorla, Mississippi Review, Mirage/Periodical, and Projector Magazine. She taught writing, film, and cultural studies at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois.