Northwest Indiana

by Joseph Pete

They closed the steel mill, the auto factory,
And the dated concert venue at the edge of the cornfield.
They closed the dance hall, the steak house,
And the bakery with the tuna salad
All the professors once raved about.
They closed the obsolete, the faded, the forgotten,
The still completely functional,
Didn’t matter.

They closed the department stores, the drive-ins,
That legendary dive bar, the beloved pizza place,
The single-screen movie theater with the pipe organ,
And that banquet hall where so many young couples wed,
Hopefully, starry-eyed,
Ignorant of or indifferent to
The terminal decline of property values in a Rust Belt burgh.

They even closed that lake perch and frog leg palace,
A stalwart seafood restaurant, not far from the lake,
That had been there for a solid century.
Vacationing Chicagoans once flocked there on their way
To rest and relaxation out in the country.
Everyone had been there, or at least heard of it.
So when word of its imminent closure spread,
Everyone milled outside in a serpentine line
That wound and wound around,
All waiting for one last mouthful of deep-fried fish
That needed vigorous squeezes of lemon
And generous dollops of tartar sauce for any flavor to register.
They waited and waited and reminisced about a bygone era
That had vanished long ago.

That joint was classic, vintage;
The complementary relish trays came
With beets and cottage cheese and all that.
Everyone loved that place.
Everyone had a thousand memories.
But no one went anymore,
And that’s why it was closing forthwith.

As it all wound down, there was a finality, a funerary mood.
The musty wallpaper was peeling, the carpet stains appeared intractable.
As the aroma of lake perch wafted into the stale dining room,
A long procession of mourners
All romanticized a yellowed past
They had chosen to walk away from.

Joseph S. Pete keeps a hard hat and an orange construction vest in his trunk. The Indiana University graduate is an award-winning journalist, Iraq War veteran and regular guest on his local NPR affiliate. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dogzplot, The Roaring Muse, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, shufPoetry, The Vignette Review, Pour Vida, Parody Poetry Journal, Chicago Literati, Indiana Voice Journal, The Five-Two, the “Words & Other Wild Things” book and elsewhere. He was named Baconfest Chicago 2016 poet laureate, a feat that Milton chump never accomplished.