In Reginald Gibbons’ poem “Avian Time,” an unnamed Chicago convention center along the lake stands mammoth and monolithic: a shock in the landscape and an obstacle to migratory birds. His description of what one can only assume is McCormick Place is one of many city vignettes from his collection of Chicago poems and stories, Slow Trains Overhead.
Gibbons teaches at Northwestern University and his poetic images are familiar to anyone who’s spent time in Chicago. He chronicles the “handsome and ugly brick buildings,” the way moonlight “angles through the east-west streets,” and “the erratic waves – not of the lake but of noise.”
“Avian Time,” then, is a strange but beautiful ode to a utilitarian landmark, one that creates a jarring juxtaposition of the man-made and the natural:
Are these particular birds blown off course by winds, and do they return
in starlight or dimness before dawn or under dark clouds toward shore,
making for the large bulk they might perceive as forest?
You can hear Gibbons read “Avian Time” in the audio above.
Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Reginald Gibbons spoke to the Society of Midland Authors in April. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.