Writings

Posted in Uncategorized, underground

Mozart and the MTA

Something in the truth stirs the sound receptor in my mind and I only hear the sound of mumbled marbles through choking mouths — like when I rushed to my Harlem bedroom window after hearing a plane passing really low, hand to mouth, rushed and stood pressed to glass — I could only hear the rumble of plane and whir of my imagination. And this only a month ago.  I suppose it was nothing.  Or at least no one ever heard about it.  So whether violins or groans from underground brought me there it was something about the truth that stirred in me on this train headed to lots of places.

But now all I hear is the “routine” from a man in the subway.  He parked himself in the middle of this uptown 4 and immediately took to two children on the laps of their parents.  Now those kids are gone, scared off at Bowling Green with its orange painted brick stretch of walls, but the man continues, he’s moved up and down the train after apologizing for interrupting the day, the passage, the read, the concert etc. and has proceeded to entertain the train with imitation train noises for starters… This was actually met with delightful curiosity by the sister in a pair of children, whose haircuts were almost the same save a distinguishable few curls that sort of went through her head precociously, making her a cute but muppet-looking little rascal.  And as the doors closed they “chimed” together, the man and the kid, and the ultimate showman exclaims proudly but still in his gruff tone, “she’s my partner, ladies and gentlemen. One more time…” and she never repeated the sound.  Even I entertained the notion to help the faltering show. But he was fine, he was obviously some sort of falsetto genius and man about town — the underground town.  Now he’s on to jokes and has quite a few people laughing or at least smiling.  Even me through my Mozart, through it all.

I enjoy listening to Mozart underground because it seems to add a sense of driven purpose or at least justification for things I’ve seen down here. I like when the tender lush swells match a starting train before it catches hold of higher speeds.  And twinkling piano trills ringing against the sea of squeals and even now the train runs smooth and these strings rage onward through the dark layered forest.  The soot is a stream of midnight water and we go forth into the nothingness until the mechanics gives way to the logistics and the MTA fails Mozart.  But here again the flight of keys black and white, up and down, a confluence of birds like people, perched or running, never flying.  Reaching stretching all within Mozart’s grasp, it’s all within my grasp until even Mozart has to stop.  And the steady mechanics of the track click track click track click takes hold of my heart and steadies the chaos once more.

But whether it be truth or chaos. The subway and Mozart are great antidotes.

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Games lost, by the Philosopher Fisherman

“most games are lost, not won.”

So I immediately approached the truck and a man dressed like a fisherman greeted me with a smile and open palm. “How are you?” I said quite jovially as if I’d known him for years. “Good, good,” he responds and then I look over to the water where he sits, see he sort of presides over this little tugboat being rained upon by clear blood looking water from the shower hose rigged above. He was a carney.

And so we chatted about things here and there near and far, for just a few moments, as the rest of the bus, the very happy yellow school bus from the outside, but whose innards seemed strangely unimpressed by their surroundings, almost unhappy.

But on they walked and there I stood about to play a carnival game. For free. For the mere enjoyment.

The tugboat’s top stood out like Abraham Lincoln’s black stack high above a basin not so proud and long as his face; the boat was short and stout, like a kettle out the oven that’s been flattened near a crepe. A filled one.

And so I readied myself, like a golfer or a weightlifter, grounding myself and trying to counter balance with my one shoulder messenger bag to get the best throwing stance possible to try and get these rings around the tugboat’s top. And one: whew, right over the top. “At least I got it close,” I thought for a quick second before I shifted my weight back and forth. And I grabbed the second ring, this one bright orange. Clang! –“Woah!” from the fisherman, kindly and warm — “Nice,” I thought but just for a second, and I was readying my feet again. As I lifted the third ring I thought of nothing else but the ring and the tugboat. Getting the ring to the tugboat.

And I lost. I hit it again though, but it seemed merely a consolation prize, getting to knock it twice but never landing it through. “No matter,” I thought and smiled at the kindly artist, as we chatted some more. He was in fact an artist as was the designer of this entire game who was working the ski ball around the back of the truck. Joel Kyack.

I could’ve won a mirror painted by him. If I had only won that tugboat toss. And I shook the fisherman’s hand and was greeted around the corner by another man who was dressed in a yellow rubber rain suit complete with heavy duty suspenders. A fisherman.

After getting to see some of his other work in the Frieze Art Festival, I could tell he was certainly a fisher of men. Philosopher Fisherman.

Posted in Uncategorized, underground

On the way to Atlantic

You were coming from work and as you left the train at Atlantic my eyes warmed over like yours had been warmed over, swelling to an innocuous jade and brown beneath the phosphorescence. I was crying your tears and the doors closed and I looked down to let them fall and instead of cold release, you came through me and it was like putting glasses on for the first time. Everything was washed clean, like a windshield wiper or a dish being pulled out of fresh cold water in one of those commercials but no dripping at all, and my face remained dry; it all soaked into me.

You were crying the minute I stepped into the train no doubt, because when I reached my seat across from you, you were wiping your eyes already.

It took me the entire ride to gather the courage to talk to you, and actually it was you who spoke first.  Coming over to the map behind me you peered through your big eyes that shined a sad glaze, and you stepped back still unsure.  I said, “what are you looking for?” at which you replied, “does this stop at Atlantic?”

After our exchange and my double checking the map, for I had just moved to a neighborhood along this line myself, the train was indeed headed to Atlantic.  To make matters better, God chimed in and announced as the conductor, “Stand clear.  Next stop Atlantic.”  We laughed and I came over next to you. “Are you alright?” “Oh, I’m fine,” you started and I continued, “because I saw you crying before and –” “well, yes…” and then we breathed.  I felt berated, for the blink of an eye, about my brazen observance. “It’s been a long day,” you offered and I sort of sigh an exhalation.  “I’m sorry” I seem to say, “uhhmmphh” I kind of mumble through a closed mouth “I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“I know what you mean,” I would’ve said, but I simply say “yeah…” and offer you my handkerchief which has been idly in my grasp for a few minutes now, since I had been back over on my side.  Since I wanted to help, but could only look over and wonder.  I did, while I was over on my side, ask God to “give me her pain.”  I’m not sure why but I do that from time to time.

You sort of laugh and entertains my offer with a generous wave and air of aristocracy and I smile too at the thought of having a handkerchief nowadays.  You smile through pressed lips and I do too.

Now the same handkerchief is in my hand again beneath my phone as I type this.  Anchors and rope, blue and red coil.  And in a wide cross-check pattern the rope goes through and through the white handkerchief lined in navy blue and thin lines of red.  We’re coming up from 14th street and I wonder about you.  I wonder if you have stopped crying?  Or if you’re having dinner yet?

I hope you’re doing well.  And yet I can’t help but think, “I wish I could’ve done more.”

 

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April Showers bring May Flowers

Until this May rain had confined me for a bit, held me at bay from the world and pinned me to the wall of self awareness I couldn’t see winter’s end. I couldn’t see you as never there. But now I sit alone on the sofa aside from new lives and new attitudes, having breakfast at noon and typing this into my phone…

Art to be made and songs to be played. New songs and old songs and perhaps just a few songs I haven’t heard before, from desktops and bus stops and rooftops and blacktops that all cry out confined in droplets of rhythm in time dropping and splashing in their own meter and rhyme, chiming together with the tune of passing shuttles and planes plowing through pillows of thick cotton complexions, resounding through my window like passing strangers in the night that seem very recognizable. Where are the birds I heard a few days ago? Now my heart is friend of the jackhammers, like when I was a kid on the playground — hanging out with the class clown cut-ups before they could gang up on me, I was their mascot — so too my heart takes solace in the streaming plane overhead, the trains that glide smooth over the bumps in the road of my mind, like getting the kinks out on an ironing board. Cozy heat comforts pleats and my heart in this city is the night bird of Keats…

There is so much pain the world carries every day it spins anew, must I navel-gaze much longer only to miss the few moments that flew on by before I knew. Looking glass to telescope open wide this periscope this is how you truly see the world as it was meant to be. Flowers fall and die and fade only to sprout someplace else, be made, whether by clouds of bees in steamy pollen-filled-days to bare earth and concrete places, or to clean white spaces where with paper and rhyme and pen-off-his-heart some poet will paint the petals so smooth you forgot the death and laugh at the life what flower what love what languish what pain! Clouds move on through every day they pass, like that river proving true but never quite the same to pass, fleeting friendships and the running-rest all subside like fears in the night only when fears submerge to converge in the blank open spaces of dream canopies and commas of catharsis. So it rains, so it ended what is life without being mended. Flailing and falling and failing and mauling at some answers like grizzlies defending her right. My cubs are but dreams but I’ll fight in my heart, to live it all well and treat others from start, with love and respect in the grand scheme of things but also right down to the littlest of moments, for that is what surely brings all of the flowers clinging and mingling to ethereal dust. This is my quest like some far away something of a mystery to me. Just me and the world and music make three. Honest plaintive melodies set to the pulse of this city gliding ‘long this river deep within me and to this rain that I do see. This rain in May, that keeps me at bay. This electro-micro synthesis of pleasure and pain, this forgetting you and loving you as a memory lost to time. This will all take writing and music and time….

Of course, flowers need no music or poetry, and rain comes with or without the world to see. They live and move congruous to some damn divine plan that I’ll just for now surrender myself to.

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Posted in travel, Uncategorized, underground

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.

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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.

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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)

Posted in ART, Uncategorized

VanGogh’s Oleanders

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) Oil on canvas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaning towards the breezy open window
Open faces do greet me cheery so.
Rose-cheeked crimson faces and blood flushed
Caressed by silken pinks and puffs of white
Like clouds on green agave
Cling embraced inside your favorite pitcher.

There’s your book of lines and my book of words
Precariously set on the corner of carelessness, nap time, and
nonchalance
Bathed in afternoon reaching towards dusk

Somehow begging to be sought after in a furious state of inspiration
Together forever united in time.

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Free Write

hello from the night time once again.
across the seas of night so thick
and stars so hot to pierce the blackness.
cut me open and pour me out,
on the canvas with stars for hooks
and let my insides rise and shout
and call to death and life for thee.
“hello from the night time once again my once and future true best friend”
for it is in life that we forget
the coming call of bets to collect.
and it is in death that we refuse
to do anything of what it dare choose.
For it chooses you and calls your name
you know it most as the deep dark pain,
the something calling from the start
long ago and far away
the time and judgment
that did not stay.
It did enliven
your games as kids
fake guns and swords
or just fake sand
playing on the beach
in just your living room.What is it to truly live?
To live without the thought of pain
To give with only love to blame.
To listen to the earth
when it calls your name
and the animals and trees
and the blades of little grass.
The skies so massive
The clouds like mountains
and mountains capped
like jagged teeth
of a snoring monster.Up from the depths
of your imagination
life does create
a marvelous thing.And when do we go there?
To that place called imagination?
in times of need
in times of stress
in times of leisure
when life seems best?
And when do we
think on death?
At night, in darkness
in the call of unknown.
“Wish I could climb
up the rungs of a ladder
for days — wouldn’t mind —
just so’s I could see into the future.”
Death at night the fall of day
How else should we proclaim it say!
Death during sunny beautiful afternoons?
And why not?  I’m sure it’s happened once at least.
But why then should we worry
where or when.
On what then should we think?
On the inbetween.
Gray sheets and bedfellows so new.
Living for loving’s sake and giving for life’s sake.
This world has already given me so much.
I am already so lucky..
I must give back.
For if you give.
The world will be open to you.
If you share
the sun will shine.
And you will shine too.
— free write