by Peggy Shinner
In Winnemac Park a heavy bag hung from a tree. The bag was attached to a chain looped over a limb, its four-foot length secure but free to swing. Stasis and potential. The tree was leafless. The bag leather. Everlast. But not everlasting. It had been well-used, well-hit, its weight displaced by a greater weight and sent sailing. Perhaps it had been salvaged. Somebody’s bargain. Somebody’s dummy. I gave it a kick, a roundhouse kick, a light tap that set the bag stirring. Here was someone’s jungle gym, in a stand of trees, in the middle of a park, in the middle of a city, on once native land seized by federal proxies. Then they approached, two lively kids, ready to get at it, adults barely. It was their bag, their gym. Their claim on this makeshift parcel. The girl carried a pack of props. Gloves, I imagined. Wraps. Pads. Resistance bands. Exclamations all around, cool! great! Mutual recognition. Four of us bonded by the bag, the kick, the tree, in its necessary, unknowing way. That was it. A. and I walked off. Bye! Time went on, and on again. Snow fell; cold. Pools of ice glazed the sidewalks. Petty vanities, major insults. More hands up unheeded. Names held aloft on cardboard. Brutality equaled and equaled. The next time we went to the park the bag was gone, the chain, the props. The arboreal den had been dismantled. The kids were back to coding the future or banging on drums or making change behind a counter. Even the tree among other trees was hard to find, but there was still a terrible trace of what hung, weighted, in suspension.
Peggy Shinner is the author of You Feel So Mortal/Essays on the Body (University of Chicago Press), which was long-listed for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Her essays have appeared in The Paris Review, BOMB, LitHub, Colorado Review, Fourth Genre, Salon, The Rumpus, Another Chicago Magazine, Bloom, and others. She is a life-long Chicagoan.
SLAG GLASS CITY · Volume 7 · May 2021
Header image by Tiomax80.