All in by Taylor Altman

by Taylor Altman

Past Skokie lawns flat as cemeteries

and airport buildings passing the sherbet colors of evening

down Harms Road, past the College Prep Academy, a group of boys


hacks through June’s first greenery

dreaming of the city on the other side, Lake Michigan’s

icy cut, mafiosos trailing blue Fibonacci spirals of smoke


from speakeasies and casinos. They don’t know

that other city, the ghost city beneath the lake, zoned

within its loneliness like a boy on the last day


of his childhood, turning inward to a shore unknown

to his father and brothers, the sheer blue panels

of a Calder mobile. The lake is full of stories, voices


and stories, boys stripped naked to the waist

and flayed by poison ivy, boys becoming trees, becoming

air, the circus of clouds moving silently


across the Plains suffused with light

from a distant star and floating back to earth, becoming the men

who work the great belching factories of Detroit


and Kenosha, expressions forged in steel, who press the levers

and pistons resounding in the vast cathedral

of work, holiest of names unspoken, the evening clouds


piling one atop the other, concatenating

like stories, twisting, funneling, each more intricate

than the last, bone-delicate and pale, sifted from the throats


of boys who float chained to one another

and the shore, a line of empty boats rocking end to end

in the fathomless kingdom of night.


Taylor Altman is an attorney in San Francisco. She holds a BA from Stanford University, an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, and a JD from Berkeley Law School. Prior to law school, she worked at an educational non-profit organization and taught English at a community college. Her work, twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in journals such as Blackbird, Notre Dame Review, and Salamander. Her first collection of poems, Swimming Back, was published in 2008.