My Illinois is a blue house with a big yard
in a neighborhood nestled between
a freeway and a corn field. It’s a lullaby
of rumble strips and rioting cicadas, a
warm breeze through an open window
bringing a softness in to help me sleep.
My Illinois is the Arch across the river,
settled on the other side of my car window
as I drive along backroads, hop on the highway,
exit and feel at home. It’s a light rain running
down the windshield, a break in the sky,
rays of light that float over the Mississippi
with a slight shimmer
before the grey takes them back.
My Illinois is an in-ground pool, the smell of barbeque
sliding off the porch, laughter mixing with the hiss
of air flowing from beer cans. It’s dry grass that pokes
at your feet, warm water barely refreshing, budding
rose bushes and tomato plants on their last leg.
My Illinois is a leaf pile, pumpkins on porches,
the neighbor on the corner that gives out soda
on Halloween. It’s an apple orchard, a peach
cobbler, marshmallows hanging over a bonfire.
It’s a warm sweater, a comfy chair, a creamy
cup of hot chocolate. It’s wrapping your hands
around a reminder of summer’s warmth.
My Illinois is a white morning, tingling fingers
grasping at the blankets because it’s too cold
to face this day. It’s a heavy coat,
a handmade hat, heavy boots to kick the stubborn snow
aside. It’s a long line of greyscale days.
It’s looking out the door, wishing the sun
would visit you just once today.
My Illinois is a chilly morning, cooled by winter
as it creeps away. It’s a short, barefoot stroll
to the mailbox, pale feet against cold concrete,
a smile and a wave from the neighbor, a “Mornin”
from me, a bark from the golden retriever
I still need to feed.
My Illinois is a storm as the front rolls in,
strong winds that take a few shingles. It’s watching
heat lightning move through the clouds
outside the window, waiting for the rumble
that never follows. It’s falling asleep
to the sound of rain, waking to a world
My Illinois is a hummingbird
on a rusting chain-link fence, screeching finches
fighting each other at the bird feeder, plump robins
ready to nest. It’s a deer standing in the last light
of dusk, making prints in a newly plowed field,
a set of headlights unsettling against
a night heavy with humidity, a flash flood
that sends the worms to the surface
to dry in the next day’s heat.
My Illinois is hiking through the forest,
mud thick on the bottom of your boots, listening
to time as it slips slowly by. It’s a constant question
forever asking you to stay. It’s a feeling of freedom
when the corn stalks come down, knowing that now
it’s time to leave.
My Illinois is a blue house
with a big yard, a lake at its edge.
It’s sitting there, dipping your toes in,
seeing yourself reflected in water, silent and still.
It’s knowing a moment of rest
before you get up, glance at the swiftly setting sun,
and move on.