Here are the first pieces Chase Public wrote for the CincyInk project. It combined phrases and ideas from Short Order poems we wrote at the 2013 MidPoint Music Festival, other Short Order Poetry events, and new words from the poets.

When we sat down to write this first section, we had Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird in mind. Stevens finds so many ways to address and imagine real and symbolic blackbirds. Some of our early conversations attempted to talk about the Queen City and to it as a Queen.

Reading SOP poems and talking about love letters and Cincinnati came first. Then we'd go off individually and write for a while. When we came back together, we'd paste whatever parts we wanted to share into an online document we could all edit at the same time. This is the first section we created.

I always say a prayer
when I see you through
the cut in the hill,
my drama Queen

I fell for your trumpet
calls, your swelling symphonies
and viola concertos.

You swam in bourbon
and swing music
and called your song the river.
I doused myself in your laughter.

Now you climb hilltop woods
and stone halos
looking for a fight.

Corn fed pig town,
you taught me three-ways, goetta fest
and pony kegs. You taught me
bengal shouts in the winter wind.

You taught me to Ezzard Charles,
to jab and duck and weep
your big red machine.

You caught me in a redleg rundown,
buzzing between safe plates.
A Queen City pickle.
You caught me square.

I fell down Belgian block alleys
drunk on Bock,
or was it your breath?

In a gallery
with a painting named Springtime,
I wanted to take your hand
but could not.

You made a photograph
of me in the northern light
of a Court Street window.

You made away with me.

You’re the heart in my wrist,
the arrow on my chest.
I tried to call you some mysterious name
but you turned my line
into a circle
around us.

Sing the Queen City.
Say home.
Coast the long cut.
Cross that bridge.

Reading this after not seeing it for a year, I'm struck by how similar this draft is to the final poem. Many of these stanzas found a place in the final poem, either in these same words or in spirit.

Initially, we thought this draft might become one section of the completed poem. Other poet friends pointed out how disjointed the stanzas were. More sections written in this same way would be difficult to think of as a coherent statement about the city. It would be tiring to read, as well.

We'd written other "Queen" stanza fragments that weren't part of the section-draft. Here they are.

Seven hills,
and a Queen
to name them.

Out of silence, a firework pops
and sizzles from an unpredictable house.
The trim’s bright paint, the sun
on low clouds—
the Queen’s jewels.

The rhinegeist calls and recalls
all the sinister joy of the river’s humid body:
a gift for the Queen.

At Findlay we bought sage,
cinnamon, saffron, lavender,
and pickled pig’s feet,
rumored mainstays on the
Queen’s table.

We dreamed we read the snow-
melt fog by candlelight
in the bedroom of the Queen.

Still my Queen,
even when you double dip
across the banks,
sharing your crown
with the northern South.

The stubborn tongues
of the Queen’s singers,
those knotted histories,
recorded in her ledger.

Here's the last set.

Footprints follow you,
slowing, where the Queen City
was not found.

Cursive tar on cracked streets,
curtain-paint on boarded windows,
Queen City on a muddy river.

To curve left and right,
to incline, sink,
is to graph the Queen City.

At either end of the viaduct,
the Queen City climbs
into its woods and stone halos.

The light was so blue
above the sky-froze streets.
A Queen City snow day.

If the bicycle is coasting,
picking up speed,
the light is sure to turn
to the Queen City.

A Queen City, staircase
to the night, reflected
beneath the autumn moon
of the Ohio River.

The way I remember it,
the Queen City is the brick alley
under pavement, scratched
to the surface by winter.