This March marks the 100th Birthday of Carl Sandburg’s groundbreaking poem “Chicago.” I’ve been teaching about it in class and my foreign students are thrilled to learn another nickname for Chicago – “City of the Big Shoulders.” We also discuss how the city was once “Hog Butcher for the World” but can still claim the titles of “Stacker of Wheat” and “Player with Railroads.”

So, with my deepest apologies to Sandburg, here is my poem “Forest Park.”

Forest Park

Grave Digger for the World

Candy Maker, Pourer of Guinness,

Player with Softballs and the Nation’s Hall of Fame;

Boisterous, stocky, bar-fighting,

Village of the Big Taverns:

They tell me you are hung-over and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the streetlights, not feeling well. 

And they tell me you are mobbed-up and I answer: Yes, I have found many gangsters in our past but would rather not say anything else on the advice of my doctor.

And they tell me you are tough and my reply is: On the skin of women and men I have seen the marks of the tattoo artist

And having answered so I turn once more to those who turn up their noses at this my town, and I give them back the dirty look and say to them:

Come and show me another village that knows how to party like we do, so proud of our St. Pat’s parade: vibrant and happy and a bit crude sometimes.

Flinging curses at the politically correct, here is a tall bold first baseman set against the little soft suburbs.

Fierce as a husky waiting to go to the dog park, street-smart as a pedestrian trying to cross Madison,

Baseball-capped,

Shoveling – tired of shoveling,

Wrecking the Roos,

Creating a comprehensive plan,

Littering, cleaning-up and re-littering,

Under the smoke in the beer garden, barbecue sauce all over his mouth, laughing with something stuck in his teeth,

Under the terrible burden of taxes laughing as a college kid with fake ID’s laughs,

Laughing, even as a drunken fighter laughs who doesn’t know he just lost a battle,

Bragging about his sweet parking space and laughing at cars with tickets, and eating his ribs, feeling the pulse and spirit of the common people.        

Laughing!

Laughing the boisterous, stocky, bar-fighting laughter of Youth, half-naked at a Bears game, sweating at the pool, proud to be Grave Digger, Candy Maker, Pourer of Guinness, Player with Softballs and the Nation’s Hall of Fame. . 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...

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