Dear Dirty America


Plastic Santa

March 28
15:30 2012

Credit: Rothko
(originally posted at 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems)
South Side, 1956 or ’57, I guess, Christmas time
plastic Santas given away with purchase
of washing machines or refrigerators
Polk Brothers crowded store on 63rd Street—
before malls, satellites, computers, smart phones—
they sponsored the Robin Hood show I watched on TV—
Robin was righteous, cunning, & skillful
the sheriff of Nottingham was betraying the people
as in Chicago Mayor Daley’s appointees—
cops, transit workers, street repair crews
guys you had to pay to enter or leave the world
take bets on horse races, sell liquor, pimp whores, etc.
& who went door to door at election time
to tell you who to vote for
like bullies at school—
no one even mentioned it or anything unjust or crazy
I had no idea what to do
& it hadn’t even occurred to me to control my anxiety.
One afternoon after school
trying to come up with a destination, destiny
I walked back & forth about a mile
California Boulevard to Kedzie Avenue
64th, 65th, 66th Street
& about half a mile back & forth
between 63rd & Marquette Boulevard
Richmond, Francisco, Mozart, Whipple, Albany, Troy—
hours—like a tiger in a cage—
Jesus! they use you to prop up what you tried to undo!—
dark early, little houses, dirty crusted snow
plastic Santas on porches
little red, green, spooky blue lights
like stars, I looked up but couldn’t see
sky covered with clouds, streetlamp bubble
cars coated with frozen grime along curbs.
When I gave up & went home—
nuclear family—each struggling forward alone—
my absence never mentioned, maybe never noticed.

See also: “People I Met Hitchhiking on USA Highways”: Eric Chaet’s Mission, a book review by Donald O’Donovan

Eric Chaet, The Turnaround Artist, born Chicago, USA, 1945, raised on rough South Side, pre-computer factory, office, &warehouse jobs. Some teaching, some independent self-taught technical consulting. 1974, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, poems, Toronto, Canada. 1977, Solid and Sound, vinyl LP of songs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA.  Mid-80s to mid-90s, silkscreened, hitchhiked, & stapled 1500 cloth posters to utility poles along American highways.  1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief prose philosophy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin, USA; 2nd edition, 1994.  2001, People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways, mostly narrative prose, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA.  Lives in Wisconsin, industrialized dairy farms & cows, remnant cheese & paper factories & factory hands & outlaw mammals & birds, post-construction boom, reactionary politics & obsolete machinery, a smattering of professionals & millionaires.  Poems published, over 50 years in many USA states, plus Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Nepal, India, China, Singapore, Korea, & Taiwan, often in translation. 

Reach him via Contact box at bottom of any page of his website, 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems, <>. 

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