Michael Vitaly

theatre maker, writer, artist

Month: April, 2012

The moth and the drums

The drums had stopped.  A vivid bailable non-cantable that was emanating through the ceiling joists above as if through invisible speakers.  Through the soot my eye would travel erased of time and space.  Just part of the riff and the raff underground at this hour.  This now.  Traveling through the crowds and over platforms skimming third rails and sneaking pictures with my pen.  These people so varied.  This time so unique.  And down flutters this little moth I’m not sure from where, in and out of sight through eyelids blinking fast or an old 8mm film.  I follow her through the black, lost in white, in and out of dark and light.  I turn my head to see the clamor coming up the stairs losing sight of the moth.

“Saddle up, it’s part of the draw,” I sort of say with my eyes as I admired the Delsey luggage being dragged by a sternly focused brunette.  I used to have a suitcase like that but mine was black not blue.  They had come the long flight and a half up from the tunnel to the 7 and the A, C, E.  They seemed an unhappy pair, these Twentysomethings.

Faces flushed and about to burst with sweat, readying themselves, barely off the landing above the last stair, they stood stopped but swaying, with inertia no doubt, huffing and puffing. “I’ve been there,” I think but do not say  a thing (sometimes it’s nice just to not connect at all — to watch from afar).  They were now firmly settled and the girl with my luggage had gone over the bumpy yellow strip along the open tracks now, greeting danger with reverie, dancing up a storm until, “What!?” she exclaimed off the scoff of her friend throwing her hands up in the air like waving surrender, and then the drumming stopped.  As if the drumming-older-brother-upstairs got wind of the merriment being had downstairs to his cathartic concerto, and snatched the groove from under our feet.  And it was just like that, the drums had stopped and this little moth, it must’ve been a moth, fluttered rather gracefully downward below my line of vision — intersecting animalistic purity into the mix of human movement.

Fluttering from left to right in pulsing plosives while streaming forward almost bubbling, like spilled soda over a kitchen countertop, She ran smooth but popping bubbles along the way. “There she goes..” I think, “and where did she come from?”

Where is she off too?

Did the drumming rock her loose from her shroud of slumber?  Did she reside in the invisible speaker of raw acoustics along the strips of black?  Or is her home above the lights where no one really looks?  Maybe there’s a little nestled nook where she does hide, inside part of an old sweater found in the lost and found, there’s an old copy of the Economist lying around, with cigarette butts strewn beside.  The hearth of the work room pipes greeting hisses to her every day when she would return home.

Her wings, white and clear, but through a silken screen stretched thin.  There she flew before me.  Flap and stutter, glide and flutter.  Capillaries.  Concrete.  Lost in fluorescence.




Sheer wax
sun and candles
peeling back the gauze
and you burn through me
and weathered
I stretch.
You bleed.
I burn
you win.

Tulips.  in the sun.

On the road again

Sirens pass and my eyes move beyond their nonspecific glaze of the seat in front me and reach the concrete barricades of this stretch of highway north of Washington. They move across the roughly painted brown and speckled-white thick and glistening giant curb and beyond it to the Mormon church in the distance. Its spires and walls are pure as freshly fallen snow even against this white sky it stands out and makes the heavens glow a dingy grey. Gold crowns spire’s tips like arms raised in rejoicing and this castle floats atop the dark rich green forest like a fairy tale memory come to life or Disneyland.

This bus continues its hum and fall making its way to 95 north and I wander through my memory like a hiker lost amidst trails so familiar to my heart yet so far from recent memory that I don’t know where to turn. Fortunately, four the next few hours, I don’t have to make those decisions at all.

In fact sometimes the joy of public transportation, and in this case semiprivate coach, can be in that realization. That release. That eventual place we all fall into and actually enjoy — once the scratching and pouting subside — that place when adults rock like babies and babies often scream. The place where strangers often gather to be moved in their own way.

And brake lights overcome my vision as inertia moves us forward. 11 miles to 695 in 11 minutes. I guess the rain hasn’t really slowed anyone down after all. We pass a sign for Fort Meade. For lodging and an exit. And still this sky stretched grey speaks to me like an empty canvas weighing down upon my chest. My eyes now feel the pull and my eyelids acquiesce slowing in their blink heavy now with something. But I breathe in very deeply in search of any answers, and my eyes fall back up the road ahead of us. We seem to be flying now, cars gliding along atop water clouds made from the asphalt and precipitation. And skimming the heavens hung in grey and white and black besides we pass over the entrance of 695. Floating, flying atop the clouds in a foggy reverie.

John Donne

Break of Day

By John Donne

‘Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?
O wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because ‘tis light?
Did we lie down because ‘twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.

Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spy,
This were the worst that it could say,
That being well I fain would stay,
And that I loved my heart and honour so,
That I would not from him, that had them, go.

Must business thee from hence remove?
Oh, that’s the worst disease of love,
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo.

I fell in love with this poem in seventh grade thanks to my English teacher Mrs. (Carol) Benedetto.  She gave me her Norton Anthology of Literature to read.

It all started when my dad took us to this little book store by our house, in the same strip mall as the indie movie house.  I picked up three little Penguin books: Nikolai Gogol, Mark Twain, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I started with Fyodor.

Cue, Mrs. Benedetto.  In our English class we had to write in a daily journal and share or expound upon whatever we liked, what we’ve read in other classes, newspapers, magazines, other books, from the readings in class, you could even write things of your own creation — stories of summer camp hikes, christmas time caroling, or stories of your favorite family dog.  Not long after my fateful trip to the bookstore, I had been mulling over a certain quote that had stuck with me, and decided to write about it in a little entry before recess.  The quote?  “They sometimes talk about man’s bestial cruelty but that is being totally unfair and unjust to the beast, for a beast can never be as cruel as a man, so artistically, so picturesquely cruel.”  Not long after reaching that sunny patch of grassy hill drenched by noon day sun, I hear my name ring out and Mrs. Benedetto calls me back into the classroom.  She holds up my journal and asks me, “Where did you read this from?”  I pulled the book out of my bag and showed her.  The next day she brought me her Norton Anthology of Literature.  We started at Canterbury Tales — where else?! — and moved on from there.

I devoured those words like home cooked meals — this coming from a bachelor in Harlem who eats with rather utilitarian efforts as of late.  Simply to nourish.  Words to me were what I came to cherish about the communicative arts.  Their sounds, their distinctions, each one pertaining to some special entity entirely separate from any other — or sometimes incredibly close to a few, but slightly different in meaning, or in terms of poetry different sounding — the way they would come together, fall into place, get wrapped around my head like a towel drying co-ed walking around distracting me from studies or no doubt inspiring countless words and endless lines conjuring stars and moonlight and an effusive earnestness to rhyme!  My first poems were wonderful little couplets, strict yet funny.  Succinct and sweet.

The best part about this Norton Anthology was not the hard maroon cover and faded gold writing that made it mysterious, or the thin tissue-like paper on which these glorious words were typed, but the fact that I could approach these words whenever I wanted and however I wanted.  She gave me suggestions and pointed me in certain directions but largely my literary fancy started with just plain opportunity and curiosity.  And having one awesome teacher.

Johne Donne’s poem, “Break of Day”, stood out from the page and never left my side.  I come back to it from time to time and it always brings me back to a simpler time when there was a chance for wonder, curiosity, and literary delight.  Getting wrapped in thoughts that wrap around meter and rhyme pouring over to the next line and onto a different stanza.  It was like hiking down into the Grand Canyon or sliding down a barber shop pole following the little stripe.  The sights along the way were something I’d never forget.  So often do I read thousands of words in one day traipsing up and down this city that speaks volumes in advertising and news publications and others I try to tune all the noise out from my mind, not letting anything in — though impossible, because you eventually have to look up, and because now, I think thanks to my own need and love I have for writing, everything speaks to me.  I hear things in the sunshine through strong chugs of white puffs along a celeste afternoon.  I hear things in sidewalk cracks.  In the tumbleweed of trash and bags that get stuck to trees now budding.  There are so many stories to write, so many lines to walk, because there is so much around us only waiting to be heard.  Here’s to you finding that poem.  That phrase.  That word.

Happy Poetry Month.

(these were thoughts on John Donne written on the Third of April 2012)