We’re finishing our spring break with a couple of days at the Hyatt on the Chicago River, and this view out our window yesterday made me think of the second half of Sandburg’s “The Harbor”:
I came sudden, at the city's edge,
On a blue burst of lake,
Long lake waves breaking under the sun
On a spray-flung curve of shore;
And a fluttering storm of gulls,
Masses of great gray wings
And flying white bellies
Veering and wheeling free in the open.
Way way downstate, where I was raised, they’ve always had a complicated view of Chicago, as in this bit from something I wrote:
We were born to greatness, that was manifest. Steamboats once lined the wharves five-deep at Cairo, and Southern Illinois opened the first banks in the state when Chicago was just swamp and wild onions. The great Charles Dickens himself invested in us when it was pointed out how like Manhattan we were, bounded by two waterways greater than the Hudson and East Rivers. For a short while we were the Ellis Island of the slavery and reconstruction South, and we felt in our souls the promise of destiny. Then Northern locomotives, fired with our coal and faster than any river barge, stole our future and shipped it away, blasting their horns in derision as they sped over the bridgespan we’d built for them. Mr. Dickens lost a bundle in that deal, and we hear he was none too happy, but after all it was our lives.
But looking down from a thousand feet up in the Hancock Center, with a couple of curious boys on a fine early spring day, it’s Sandburg’s view all the way.
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