The Bees of O’Hare Field
Honey in the jet wash and lights dropping from the east;
twilight in Chicago and deep in ordinary time, reverie of
endless TIF and field. We’d placed the hives far from the bee-
eaters. Far from disdaining the cells, the bees moved in and it
was all gold and honey and real estate, now hived beneath
the global pollen falling with the light. Soft screech of
commuters returning; even snowflakes bounce off the earth.
Swarmed and droning, all cities return, indexed to common
volatilities. Perhaps we’d dreamed the bees in their O’Hare
apiary. Our thoughts had scattered before. On the other side
of our minds, we’d watched the planes drop into the Lake—
the great concrete bowl of the Mayor’s Aquaport, aviation
just one more aspect of bee-keeping. The natives had seen
the bees as invaders, “English flies…spreading sadness and
consternation in all minds.” Now, “checking the bees’ giddy
spirit of idle play,” the prisoners gathered our honey; the air-
port chaplain called us to prayer in Terminal 2. In the waxy
cells we call home, the colonies’ quick collapse surprised us;
trading in volatility, “a fraction of its former glory.”
How do we read substance as anything but number? VIX
and Caesar’s honey, even weather a commodity here; breathe
it and see. We distinguish the forewing from the hindwing,
the pollen luggaged and ported in the swarm. We’ve lost
our bug brain, the social no longer substance—the narrow
workspace of our shared solitude, collapsing into bit tongue.
Wings pass overhead; the silence, where we now reside—out
of place, out of time. The urban insects have reconfigured
themselves against it, made a song of its night. The hive’s
foragers weakened and dying—tender buzzing along runways,
an undeveloped grassy area. In a small window, the restless
commuter finally home and a box buzzes in the cell lot.
Dream of peace—the drones hived, and pocketed, the grave
pencils with which we draw the world. Tapping the big empty,
I am a forager of sounds. Are you a forager, too, your songs
so far from home? Even their substance sings—pollen and
jet fuel futures, drones’ wings and commodious honey.
American Necropolis # 3
Getting There: The city can only be reached by desert. You will see white sand, gray sand, black sands, and if you are fortunate, the final, suburban yellow sands. Very little will grow from one zone to the next, so don’t trust roadside stands offering, “local produce.” Drive fast—“balls to the wall,” “pedal to the metal,” eyes “glued” to the windshield. The War continues here whether you buy their souvenirs or not.
We won’t lie to you: it is difficult to leave this place. Great swamps of drought surround the city on three sides. Only one highway remains. “The drought has taken much,” say the dead, scratching their well-lined crania.
The City on Foot: The city is gridded, hooded with alleys in which the dead hawk every contraption of desire that’s imaginable. You’ll recognize them. The dead’s breath reeks of cheap raspberry candies; their fingernails are embedded with endive and banana shavings. Although others have gone into the business, the dead remain the city’s most reliable vendors. “Their shit works,” locals commonly say.
Don’t believe the stop signs. They’ll tell you, “GO HOME, TOURIST.” This was the last city conquered in the last century’s great war; it holds its resistance as a matter of pride, but it will value your coins even more. Tip well.
Don’t worry. On your strolls, you’ll find more than a handful of dark corners to piss in.
Collisions with the Past: Great, historic droughts poured through this town in the last century, marking it forever among the nation’s “Arid Places.” The city’s motto is, “History has gone North.” Don’t believe it. History has simply refused to exist side by side with time here. It’s gone into the ground. Its movements don’t tick or leave trails of writing behind them. Unfortunately, this leaves a pack of surly, unemployed historians who write from pure spite. “This savage city devoured children in their infancy,” one wrote in a well-noted volume last decade. “This violent place has even been emptied of its stories,” wrote another in a text that is still considered a “classic expression of the historian’s disdain.” Locals know better; the words have merely been buried with the dead.
Find the city’s statue dedicated to Revolution herself. On its steps is where Nixon offered his famous speech, concluding, “Culture sucks the hind tit.”
Health and Wellness: The dead say that drought pools in this city, great floods of it collect in the gutters in summer months. The June winds send it rippling along curbs like smoke from a proximate fire. The drought’s power breaks like a sudden thaw, leaving street mutts with large gulps of nothing. All the water here is stolen.
The city seems to always be on the great trough of health. “Water is advancing,” doctors claim, offering well-tuned soils, bottles of the inevitable pills. Companionable states of being. “Golf unto eternity.”
Where to Eat: Like the city’s history, much of the culinary has been lost. Local chefs claim that if much of this culinary art could be re-pieced, the city’s history would be recovered. Street vendors tell you that this is another lie propagated by the hotel chains. There’s a great deal that’s cooked in this town, although little seems eaten.
The local delicacies are grown in caves, vegetables lowered into the ground in metal pots, cooked in the region’s boiling springs. They rise from the ground with scents of buried metals. The main industry here packs the enormous number of ready-to-eats for the War Effort. Their canteen is worth a stop; most days, mislabeled or unknown tins are distributed for free.
As far as the “culinary lottery” extends, El Norte Azul (three *’s) seems a good alternative, although its “local seafoods” have recently been the subject of rumor and investigation. Locals note that El Capitan (one *) is well-known for its rice dishes and one-pot meals; however, a ongoing series of ownership changes have left the waitstaff “confused and surly.”
Where to Stay: The entire city is a biological lab, so plan your accommodations accordingly. Who knows what experiment has been worked in your ventilation, sink, or bed? Polite men may enter your room in the middle of the night to take samples. Treat them as you would a volunteer maple in your backyard.
Once five-starred by the reputable travel guides, the American Nomad (one and a half *’s) is but a shadow of its former self. All of its TV’s were stolen two years ago. They are slowly being replaced.
Nightlife: “Why would anyone do anything here but sit out under the stars?” Jimi Hendrix once asked, moments before setting aside his guitar. The locals don’t agree, choosing instead to climb into windowless cars and speed into the desert in the middle of the night. Many don’t return.
The music here is a mixture of tom-tom and starlight. Its harmony “relentness,” in the words of one critic; its rhythm “abstracted from biologists’ rendering of the scrub. It draws your curiosity into the sand itself.” You’ll emerge, but in another century, another enemy of Kit Carson.
The Riverfront: The entire city is the result of a Master’s thesis in industrial engineering gone mad, written by a former mayor’s mistress and titled, “Slipsigns and Wordsheds: Concrete, and Public Displays of Language.” Street signs are written backwards and diagonally; shop signs, vertically or in ciphers. All in the larger question of whether these things should be regularized by the city. The mayor’s former mistress writes, “Should book titles be read vertically? If so, up or down? Author’s name above or below? There are no answers to the questions of language.”
Although the real data-collection ended some place mid-century, census-takers still roam the city, asking pedestrians, “Were you able to navigate the city comfortably? Which signage did you prefer? Did you hear the explosions last night? Were you able to locate the river bottom without help from a local?” It’s impossible to get these census-takers off the city payroll even though mistresses have appeared and gone. Residents consider their questions a plague.
Shopping: Like every other city in this region, the sex trade has visited here to mixed results. Locals say, “Each year we up the ante, but the sex doesn’t seem to get any better.” The dead are locked into this process of turning bodies and uneasy smoke-breaks. To them, the city’s levee is just a post-coital circus, the libido’s scrounged-up weekend cot. Parking is available, but expensive.
The other major industry here is the Diabolical.
Gathering Places: Late in the last century, the Archbishop here pronounced, “The soul is the new marketplace.” Before he had left the podium, a crowd stormed it, leaving the Archbishop himself badly damaged. Since that day, the authorities have been loathe to allow much gathering in this city. Even the dead are prohibited from milling on the bridges and in the plazas. A smile will get you the stick. Any crowd immediately gathers a nervous impulse; its members speak in vigorous terms, denying connection to those around them as if they’re afraid of their own skins. The dead have been infected by this social virus as well. If pressed, they’ll deny knowing you, forsaking whatever easy kinship that’s developed during your stay.
You should stay out of the libraries and colleges as well, although the dead will try to draw you there—often, on false pretexts. “I have something to show you,” they’ll say. “It can only be found on the fourth floor among the physics labs.” Refuse any such offer. The authorities claim that the labs have been scrubbed clean of all viruses, but you can never tell. But refuse politely. Invoke your kidneys. Pretend to be speechless. The dead will see through your ruse, but common etiquette will be observed.
Museums and Cultural Attractions: The agricultural poets here are both loved and despised for their sulfurous language. They reside not in the scrawny mountain forests, but engage themselves in harvesting the local fungi and deathroot. No decent film festival will inhabit this town, even though Hollywood directors descend upon it with the regularity of the June winds. The theatres are small and cramped; the dead will rattle their paper bags, munch their popcorn in your ear. Don’t complain, unless you really intend to remain in town for a considerable length of time.
This is the site of the annual convention of the Psychiatrists of Capitalism. It’s best to avoid town during this month; the dead certainly do. If you are drawn too close though, the locals will happily share their remedies. Drink a glass of milk while turning counterclockwise on a midsummer night. Stare into the June sky while reciting Mark’s Gospel from memory. Buy a new car at attractive interest rates. The dead recognize all these tricks as pure bullshit. They will tell you that the only real remedy is to fill your ears with sand.
Local Sporting Events: “Run for your life!” is the city’s motto for good reason. Each summer, the city’s marathon is a dash through a twenty-plus mile crater west of town. Throughout the remainder of the year, the crater is closed to all visitors. Authorities invoke the fear of volcanic eruption. But on one day each year, you can run through this space, carved by the century’s most sophisticated ultra-weapons. Organizers worry that the crater is continuing its growth, that the marathon’s distance will soon no longer be “official.” The dead are bored by the annual debates around this eventuality.
Cemeteries and Death Culture: This place is coming apart piece by piece; the dead will have to leave here by mid-century. Accordingly, they are engaged in the long process of “packing up.” Local residents believe that they’re headed for the mountains, although others question the dead’s resolve. “Have you ever met a dead man yet who could climb worth a damn?” one citizen complained at a recent city council meeting.
Local muralists like to depict this mass exodus on the sides of local state banks and cafes, the dead climbing the city’s surrounding hills, grasping handholds and moving limb over limb. Their eyes fixed firmly on the next rock.
Garin Cycholl’s 2022 novel, Rx, is a play on The Confidence-Man, a man practicing medicine without a license in a Dis-united States. His recent work has appeared in The Typescript and The Dead Mule of Southern Literature.
Bill Wolak has just published his eighteenth book of poetry entitled All the Wind’s Unfinished Kisses with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared as cover art for such magazines as Phoebe, Barfly Poetry Magazine, Ragazine, Cardinal Sins, Pithead Chapel, The Wire’s Dream, and Phantom Kangaroo. His collages and photographs have appeared recently in the 2020 Seattle Erotic Art Festival, the 2020 Dirty Show in Detroit, the 2020 Rochester Erotic Arts Festival, the 2018 Montreal Erotic Art Festival, and Naked in New Hope 2018.
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