Michelle Kingdom © 2018

Michelle Kingdom © 2018

by C. Henry Smith



The album wore a heavy influence on the night
Spinning with the room
Glorious runs pauses moments of sweet surprise
A Christmas card party
Flashy but forgettable the
Inside scrawled
With tender intentions

Above shattered glasses
Effusions of laughter
Avery asked if the record’s skipping
Or if that’s just jazz

And I start to feel that way
About my time in Chicago
Stuck in the swing
Amodal notes meandering
Back and back and back
Into the same six inches of groove

Begging the question
Is this just jazz
This endless seeming dysrhythm
This bebop bow-sweating
This time
Purpose rising from the ride
What Ornette Coleman meant
Playing his same notes nightly but
Different every single time




Jasper Johns b. 1930
or why a pair of utensils
lovingly hung across
a hinged canvas
made of blues
made of greys
a faltering gradation
can make me feel
the way i did
mapping cabinetry
divining a water glass
in my grandma’s dark kitchen
some long-gone summer night

Amanda Williams b. 1974
Amanda made a map
into a home, let it wrap — 
as your aunt’s trapunto quilt
over you and your shoulders
on cold Chicago nights—
to create a crate,
a reliquary rethinking
the geometry of hate,
the political lines
describing, depressing,
defining, oppressing.
Encase your bodies
in the possibility
of your streets,
the cartography
of hope.


C. Henry Smith makes poems in Chicago. His work has appeared in PM Magazine and Ode to the City. He is a co-founder of the Calamity, and he graduated from St. Edward’s University.