Thursday, April 21, 2022

I’m From Chicago Poet Elizabeth Marino Said—National Poetry Month 2022

Elizabeth Marino.

Elizabeth Marino may have been born into a Puerto Rican family in Chicago but the circumstances of her unique childhood and upbringing made her more creature of her city than an ethnic writer.  Chicago was and is a town where neighborhoods can be little realms of their own and where travel between them often seems like it should require passports and stamped visas.  A keen memoirist she recalls that world and as an adult dared to adventure even wider while honoring her roots.

Marino was born to a Puerto Rican couple in Chicago’s old Hyde Park barrio and was raised in an Italian/German American family in the southwest Chicago suburbs, famed for musicians and gangsters. She holds a Master of Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Writers Program and a BA from Barat College in addition to studying English literature and history at Oxford University. She works as an itinerant adjunct instructor of English at various Chicago area colleges preferring to stay in the city than pursue possibly more secure employment elsewhere. She is also an actor/director, working under her stage—and birth name, Micaela Mastierra.

She published her first poem at the age of fifteen in the Illinois English Bulletin.  Marino’s poetry has appeared in the anthologies Between the Heart and the Land/Entre el corezon y la tierra: Latina Poets in the Midwest published by MARCH/Abrazo Press in 2001, Breaking Mirrors/Raw Images by 4:30 Poets and College Poetry Review, and Dark Waters Speaking from La Onda Negra Press forthcoming). Non-verse and Non-fiction anthology collections include Building Socialism.  Magazine publications include Moon Journal, After Hours, Strong Coffee, Nit & Wit, Envisage in the United Kingdom, and the NAB Gallery Pamphlet Series she also has appeared on the spoken word CD Elements of Life, Love & Action with the improve troupe She Laughs. She has published creative non-fiction, interviews, and articles in The Chicago Journal and S.H.E.

Her collections include the chapbooks Debris: Poems and Memoir issued by The Puddin’head Press in 2011 and Ceremonies from dancing girl press in 2016.  Her full-length collection Asylum was published by Vagabond in 2020.

                                    Many of Marino's Chicago memoir poems appeared in the chapbook Debris: Poems and Memoir

Where Are You From?

I am a poet from Chicago.

If music can be carried place to place

and one constantly moves, it’s hard

to hold what is needed. Objects drop

from my hands. I am from the Americas.

You say you have people here?


Home to home, each time something is

lost and almost replaced. A drumbeat continues.

Things gathered up and held to the bosom

slip through fingers as you set down

objects. Everything does fall away

in spite of holding tight and a long reach.


Music can be carried place to place

a melody holding a footfall, a half-

remembered lyric re-asserts itself

differently each time. Learn to mix

adobo at home. A drumbeat continues.

You say you have people here?


Music can be carried place to place

Yellow shock of forsythia bush

irrupts in front of the red brick two-flat.

A cobblestone stamped Illinois Brick

under your feet. I am from the Americas.


Music can be carried place to place

a last full blossom on the peony bush

the blink of spring, the shock

of stillness on the edge of Eternity

that carousel, the turning called a revolution

of the lost musical cake server.


Elizabeth Marino


A '47 Harley like Marino's father had.

My Father’s Last Harley


A yellow photo curls in my hand:

my dad,

leaning against his ’47 Harley

muscular arms across white T-shirt

brass Golden Gloves belt buckle

catches the sun

crossed ankles and sharp grey pants –

no trace of Interstate mud at 17

or Army drab—trousers nearly fit for

a married man.


I’d remembered him as always looking for his red truck.

His shadow, I’d walk endless used car lots with him

and witness his haggling with salesmen. Always, the

perfect red pickup would be just on the next lot,

further north or south on Western Avenue.


“Don’t you never volunteer for nothin’,” he’d say

Ex Cathedra, rising from in front of the TV

and shuffling off toward the bedroom; and I, at 16, would walk

all 30 miles of the Hunger Hike. After:

“That’s one tough kid I’ve got.”


He didn’t say much

when I left the South Side

for the North Shore—but that winter

when he saw Tevye wave

his eldest daughter off to Siberian exile,

Mom said he cried in his popcorn.


Elizabeth Marino


A Cal-Sag barge tow at Blue Island.  Marino and friends waved to the bargemen from the shore. 

East of Ashland


There, just east of Ashland

with its potholes, busted Budweiser bottles,

rusted stop signs, and Augie’s two-pump gas station,

I lead the caravan of bicycles

down towards the docks of the Calumet-

Saginaw Canal. We stopped, and mapped out

other journeys for ourselves.


We named them angels—those bargemen

who waved and kept going.

We each kept one eye cocked,

meaning to leave Blue Island far behind.


We lived further west than Ashland,

among the south bank of the Canal—

where our teacher said

you could still find Indian arrowheads—

but east of Gypsy Town and the trailer park

lit up like a dime store Bethlehem by Clark Refinery.


Cheryl headed out first, and went south –

Southern Illinois University—and I trailed her overland

to visit, no seats on an overbooked “City of New Orleans.”

Her college friends gathered, showed us

the rock formations of Granite City National Park

the white and green river town of Cape Girardeau.


Both of us really weren’t surprised by the sites;

we’d always known they’d be there

when we’d dreamed on the banks of the Cal-Sag Canal

down there, east of Ashland.


Elizabeth Marino


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