Susan Carroll Jewell

Burnham’s Dream

The architect
of the Chicago World’s
Fair burst through the night
imagining a building photographed
by Stieglitz and Steichen, more stunning
than his White City celebrating the New World,
a forever tourist attraction built on a sad flatiron shape
of land in New York City. Make no little plans, he dreams.

On the night train, Daniel Hudson Burnham almost rises from his dozing
and dreaming, planning a magical building in a city of magic, a copper-colored
legacy for his friend, George Fuller. Casting iron with glass-eyed facades, sketching
the steel frames to outline a triangular city block, Burnham smiles at the gentle curve
as narrow as a man’s height. He shapes the tripartite terra cotta to hang on the metal
of an architecture sure to change the City skyline. Neighbors will call the new
building folly, saying the wind alone will crumble it to reddish dust.

The dreamer has long learned to trust every big plan, wink
at mockery and listen to himself. Burnham has seen
the rusted red planet of Mars steadfastly hanging
in the heavens since before Man could see.
Without doubt, he knows himself
to be the architect who built
the skyscraper that lasts
until the edge of time.

First published in Still Point Arts Quarterly Num. 48, Winter 2022