Adman walked south

By Patrick T. Reardon


Adman walked south on Leviathan Boulevard

toward glitter Loop


     I will anthem sing tomorrow, prophet talk.

     I will speak in tongues.


     I will page poems, climb tree, sweep dirt,

     change rules.


     Draw the map,

     find the Savior, publish diligent voices.

     Hearken to the sound, scratch the itch.

It was after a day game

when the bars were open noise

and the sidewalks wobbled —

no one paid him mind.


He wore camo sweatpants

below a sharp white shirt

with a blue-pattern tie from his fraternity.


He dragged behind him on a leash

a black and white stuffed puppy, not large.

     Rise up, set down, push away,

     elbow, head-butt, go, come, go,

     let my skin find the secret commandments.


     I will oath. I will shut. I will vex.


     Tomorrow, not today.

He stopped in the McDonald’s

near Avenue of the Saints

and the Gold Coast and Little Hell

and the Cardinal’s mansion

and took his Egg McMuffin up to the second floor,

empty except for a Bible study group.


He was sure they were praying for his soul.


He went over

and whispered into the ear of the young pastor,

fresh from his lake park jog:

     I will bring frogs to the altar  

     and unguents, oils from Arabia,

     first-born live stock

     for the gleaming blade.


     Interview the lost tribes.

     Survey the communion of saints.

     Answer aboriginal questions.

     Submit to interrogatories.


     Touch brass.  Touch gold.  Touch water-worn wood.


     I will open my mouth tomorrow to the rain.

The pastor continued without missing a beat,

“Turn your prayer books to Chapter 13.”


And Adman left his table unbussed.


On the sidewalk outside, he opened his arms wide

— forcing several tourists from Chagrin Falls

to step into the street,

scrunching noses as if he smelled (he didn’t)

and already composing texts back home —

and sang out:

     Fire the newspaper.  Fire the straw. 

     Fire my infant photos.


     Walk the sidewalks bellowing, free or mad.


     Grope. Grasp. Grip.


     I will plant the sunflower.

     Crush the rotten peach under my heel.

     Spill the rotten milk on soil.

     Step past the nest-fallen egg.

     Intoxicate on grass mown aroma.

Once, long ago, he walked to Manhattan,

a thousand miles, give or take,

and took the subway to the Financial District,

rising up — ascending like a saint,

transfigured, transubstantiated —

from the underground to a rain

of bodies and dust and ecstatic sunlight.


He has stored in his closet

all the clothes he wore that day.

still covered with inhuman soot.


He almost wore the outfit this day.

     I will proverb tomorrow, psalm a lamentation.

     I will flee down Chronicles Road.

     Sightsee Transfiguration.

     Circle the Black Stone.

     Dine on the Mount.

     Leave a footprint

     on my brother’s bloody backyard sidewalk.


     Tomorrow I will roll the stone away.


     Answer the bell.

     Answer the phone.

     Answer what is not asked.


     Fire the wood idol. 


     I will tell the story of my life.

At the river, he turns back.

He will not cross this water.


By this stream, he wept and

was required to sing a happy tune.

A single wild mullein grows,

more than two feet tall,

topped with light green pods,

clustered together like corn on an ear,

ready to explode into blossom,

called a pineapple weed.


He takes out his cellphone

and calls his dead mother.

     I will fence land.

     Carve soil.

     Follow lines to their end.


     Fire the evidence.


     Observe the proprieties.

     Provide the necessities.


     Tomorrow I will be human.


     My foot will step in the right direction.

She picks up as he finishes the message.


She tells him to straighten up

and fly right.


She tells him to hold that tiger.


Patrick T. Reardon


A somewhat different version of this poem originally appeared in the Spring, 2022 issue of Solum Journal.

Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is

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