Broken-sheet ice on the Chicago River:
its blue-green the shade of kryptonite,
dangerous leavings from an exploded planet.
The parallel hotels keep back the wind.
In the origin-story of Superman,
his father straps the infant in his capsule,
frozen for a safe trip through deep space.
His rocket flees their home world as it splits—
tiny projectiles, immense red sun,
tall narrow panels, a second-by-second arc.
Taut wires and pillars frame the swelling crowd:
its Saturday families, shoppers, conventioneers
and grown-up friends swing bulky shopping bags
along the edge of the city, against the lake.
A girl sprints over the bridge in a Superman sweater,
her candy necklace tight around her throat.
Postcard Sent on New Year's Day
The Ancients remain in our building.
Ash in their air;
a quote of dead pigeons in our path.
The rewards come slow,
the difficulties like a spate of glass:
all over the sidewalk, and still on the scene.
We too will be punished, but not yet.
The variegated bricks set up next door,
the little aerie hewn above the stairs,
are a twelve-tone scale: slight
things, small charms,
the jagged ones you have to learn to hear.
Stephen Burt reviews poetry regularly for The Boston Review, The Yale Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. His essays and reviews have also appeared in Southwest Review, American Letters & Commentary, and elsewhere. His poems have appeared in Colorado Review, The PN Review, AGNI, and other journals. He lives in New York City. His book of poems, Popular Music, was published last year. Mr. Burt will be teaching at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in the fall.