Photos over, under and around the Loop. Plus literary treats.

Twenty feet above the street
By Stuart Dybek

Workmen in coveralls are painting miles
of kinetic geometry, the electrified back-alley
Silhouetted twenty feet above the street.
Color doesn't matter where light
is the shade of girders sunk in recollection.
(I see el stations and I want them painted black.)
At Monroe, the accordion can't make change.
It's a day for snatches of free music: bells,
sirens, a saxophone echoing the spheres,
industrial-strength percussion from a tribe
of project kids, the techno beat
of sprockets as trains reel overhead
like runaway strips of film. But despite
the public soundtrack for the private movie
of reflections gliding shop windows along Wabash,
the buildings insist on telling their own stories.
For a modest fare, you get to hear
the voice-over of a digital conductor;
you get to see a northbound Ravenswood
releasing pigeons like blackbirds from a
A roller coaster on the straight and narrow
is how you get from here to there
while you further your secret degree
in Daily Ecstasy, eight miles high,
twenty feet above the street.

--- Stuart Dybek is the author of "The Coast of Chicago" and "I Sailed With Magellan."

mettLe respires
By Kevin Coval

silence is pending   a din

   between rounds
   a death rattle caught
   in the lungs / a pigeon
   orchestra tuning in the cage
      of beige bones

shadows box on Wabash / black
ten     ropes
dons     like

and it comes

the roar of drums / ten thousand
marching / a pendulum speeding
through the body / breath's pugilism
the champ's cry rocking iron / thunder
rumbles to a standstill
      steel gaspssssss
  hawk claws over metal

  workers empty train lines
  mister charlie don't ride
  his office / children / bed linens
  clean at the Palmer House

  Frank and Philip's barbershop
  news stands / proprietor stools
  franchised delis / cup clinkers
  collect change

  futures determined here
  traded with pork bellies

  orange vested surgeons
  dance the high wire act

  can Metropolitan Correctional inmates hear
  economic shifts wheel through window slits

  dreams stalk beneath the canopy of tremble
  multitudes rush routed in the iron Lasso

the round resumes

and from time to time
  we all
  amazed this old
fighter won't fall

--Kevin Coval is a regular contributor to Chicago Public Radio's program "848" and will appear on HBO's "Def Poetry Jam" Aug. 8.

Part 1: History

Just why is it called "The Loop"? And other answers to questions you may never have thought to ask.  More...

Part 2: Curiosities

Pigeons, alleys, places you can't go, a quiz and more.  More...

Part 3: A tour

Join us on a most unusual tour: The prettiest places, the ugliest places, places good for eating and shopping, and more.  More...

Section 5: The people

The people who live and work here, and readers share their memories.  More...