The Fourth River

Tributaries: “Guerrilla Gardening: Chicago, North Side”

By on September 14, 2016

by Benjamin Goluboff


When the city redid Lawrence Ave,
widening the sidewalk and putting in a bike lane,
they made wells in the pavement for rain gardens.
These would dampen the urban heat-island effect
and detain run-off from the downpours
expected with climate change.

The wells stayed empty all summer
— or would have, except the neighbors farmed them,
working the hard-packed soil
that had lain sunless beneath the concrete
for most of a century.

At Cortes de Pelo Cut Color Style
they put in sweetcorn,
the Little Giant strain from Burpee.
It tasseled by the end of July
and bore moderately in the dog days.

At Restaurant Y Taqueria Primo Chuki’s
it was Gulliver Hybrid tomatillos
and Okra, Clemson Spineless.
By the Vape Shop at Damen,
heirloom tomatoes and Siam Purple Basil.

Next spring, as soon as the frost
was out of the ground,
the city planted the rain gardens with ornamentals,
and there was no more room for crops.



Benjamin Goluboff teaches English at Lake Forest College. Aside from a modest list of scholarly publications, he has placed imaginative work — poetry, fiction, and essays — in numerous small-press journals, most recently Vending Machine Press, Bird’s Thumb, and War Literature and the Arts. Some of his work can be read at


Rolling, burbling, churning along, tributaries lead us to the river. These winding origins are sometimes small, but often powerful. Tributaries refresh us, urge us forward, guide us through the trees. The Fourth River’s new weekly online publication, “Tributaries,” showcases the brief and the inspiring, that which sustains us and takes us through unexpected courses. Each week we will feature one piece on the home page of the web site.  Submit to Tributaries.