“Chicago Street, Rainy Day” by Ruth Hoberman

Ruth Hoberman


The rain spills lines like brushstrokes. Suddenly
the building site at Lincoln Avenue and Fullerton is art—
Monet or Caillebotte—the yellow-vested workmen soaked
but working still, the monster shovel leaning on its claw,
a beige triangle of dirt beneath. In the foreground, gravel
and broken cement: thick as if laid on by a palette knife.

I love this gray damp light, the gutters flowing so full
I expect to see washerwomen scrubbing shirts white
in the rivers that used to be streets. What a relief
weather is: so surprising that even at sixty-six
I can’t be sure of anything. The New York Times says
it’s too late to save the world, but look at these people
sheltering under scaffolds, umbrellas askew. Look
how our windblown watching turns this morning
(doomed, I know) into something worth our living through.

from Poets Respond


Ruth Hoberman: “This poem began as a response to a rainy day (Caillebotte’s iconic ‘Paris Street, Rainy Day‘ resides at the Art Institute of Chicago) but somehow became a response to the New York Times magazine section’s focus on climate change. As the magazine’s all-black cover indicates, by not acting in the 1980s, we missed our chance to prevent disastrous global changes. My poem is about the need, sometimes, to ignore global doom in favor of local delight.” (web)

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