The Avenue of Slurred Dreams

by Jesse Millner

It was cold then, mid-1980s, Chicago—
authentic winter with below zero days
and the wizardry of turquoise ice along
the lake, shaped into sheets and bergs,
rising and falling with the water’s rolling
breath. A walk along the Lake, northbound
on Sheridan Road, ice-glazed and shining
with the light of that distant late 20th century
sun. A treacherous walk past Calvary Cemetery
into Evanston, muttering angels looking down
from above the tombs of the wealthy–I wanted
them to be beautiful, those angels, to be pure
white and merciful, to blow bugles and trombones
and whatever else might herald the coming
of the better times, the end to witless city days
of yellowed snow, the grime of road salt,
the brown residue of dog shit,
and all of it, man, entombed in the certainty
of one small world measured in the miles
from shoreline to the edge of the horizon—
probably Skokie. When I couldn’t feel

my toes anymore, I trudged back
to my basement apartment
on Chase Street with its one-windowed
view of sidewalk, which sometimes revealed
the passing feet of neighbors who were not always sober.
I, too, often tried my hand at serious drinking,
the kind that began in the morning and lasted
until the brain’s closing time, that bleary moment
when everything was at last forgotten and the eyes
closed, shutting down the scenic views of tragedies
past and present, bringing on a scary ride down
the avenue of slurred dreams. It was so cold then, when
dark mornings rolled down from the sky,
and the radiators squealed their hissing
music, shaking violently
with the force of rising steam.

Jesse Millner’s most recent poetry book, “Memory’s Blue Sedan,” was released by Hysterical Books of Tallahassee, Florida, in April 2020. He has a story in Best Small Fictions 2020. Jesse lives in Estero, Florida with his dog, Lucy.