Bundled in fur, we were just leaving the fifth avenue station on an R train wading in the current of the third rail.
Always flirting with danger, needing to be too close like Icarus, wanting to know too much like Adam, I look into these people’s faces and listen to their stories.
Still and stoic with thin black gloves grasping metal poles like a harpoon staff against the wiles, with even thinner black heels to anchor her to ground. I am writing this as she subtly lifts up her left leg. Almost stretching against the unendurable events in this jungle made of stone. And glass. And mirth and blood and years of tears and floods.
A city of cleanliness and clandestine. Of style girth and panache.
And here she was, wrapped in swaddling furs. Her face was what I noticed first. It was a blank canvas of features. Unconnected by muscles human. Inside no doubt there raged a fire, even one so faint to be — not merely alive but a little bit free — of fear and woes from hunger or bigotry — but that heat beneath the icy exterior was a luminous veneer.
I have lost her now from the maddening crowds a quickening their pace and trace of earthly elements within their shallow chests. My moon cut from alabaster. My ocean of spectral sadness.
Approaching 14th street was like riding ledger papers during business meetings. Or musical staves, lights flickering on happenstantial spaces along a rumbling bass line, your own train, like a monster hungry for music. You invent a melody and it continues while you stop, beyond the mess of people gathered on the platform lighted anew, washing away old melodies still lingering in your head skipping through colorful swaths of the human palate. And then a face interrupts you… or a real song does.
And in they come, the troubadours, “the ‘something’ harmonizers,” announcing their ways into your mornings with, “a little gospel tune — we like to do gospel hymns in the morning.” And he sort of apologizes for his sore throat and they begin.
“This light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.”
(And the girl standing in the foyer opens her mouth as if to have a conversation over the breakfast table. Across from someone she knows, and has known for a long time, she coos quietly but I hear her, and I join her.)
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”
Passed Rector Street, people blur behind glass and we reflect the tracks from both in the window ahead of me and this thick pane of glass just inches away.