Benjamin Goluboff

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Chicago Taggers

It’s only the lesser lights
who get their names in the paper.
Like Bucktown’s Chip,
who had his moment of unasked fame
when he got himself stabbed
at Armitage and Western.

Or Sole, his birth-name dragged to light
when the cops ran him
out of an old shell
at 28th and Ashland,
and the poor kid jumped in the river.
He drowned near Bubbly Creek
and his friends made him a
permission-mural on
the Radio Shack in Edgewater.

The great ones stay invisible
like gods.
They lurk on Flickr,
dabble in the photostream,
curate a following.
Their names appear in the city,
steady as rain, sudden as night,
but they are themselves nameless.
Ren. Buelr. Nudnik.
Nameless as some apprentice
of the quattrocento,
stretching canvases for maestro
-- assigned a spray of foliage
or an architectural detail --
but exempt, cancelled,
from memory.

Sometimes one of the greats
will fall.
Like Kiser, dead on the Red
Line tracks at Morse.
(Made all the stiffs come late
to work that day.)
The city keeps after them too:
baking soda and
pressure washers.
But they keep on bombing.
Ren. Buelr. Nudnik.
Sharpie on stickers,
handstyle throwies.
We know the lion
by his paw:
Nudnik’s trademark
twisted owl, or the BirdCat
(collab with Milwaukee’s Cera)
that flies from the bricks
like a miracle.



Benjamin Goluboff teaches English at Lake Forest College. Beside a
modest list of scholarly publications, he has placed imaginative work
in Hayden's Ferry Review, Anobium, Cabinet, Dead Flowers, Ascent, and