Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here Without The Wind

On Bottle Alley in Mulberry Bend. A playground in Poverty Cap around the corner from the Dens Of Death.

Some Gotham Court girls twirling by. A coal heaver smoking away his break. And Old Barney’s in Cat Alley again with his giant steel loop of keys.

Were it not for Some Five Points ruffians, nobody’d have their say back. Slaughter Street went to the geese after that, and we’d tell it to go to hell through the rickety stairs if we had our druthers. Nothing but dead rabbits and methane steaming from the grills.

And there’s Gopher Ron staring through a machine’s skeleton at another runny-nose afternoon.  
I wish I could drink the weather back to the way it was then. Murders and weddings and rocks. A log adrift in the shore’s tumult. Electricity gone. Burnt pancakes in the dark. No phones. No shoes. A race through gravel to a wheelwright’s grave. The break of waves into a heart’s shards. Desolate and around for the giving. A killing of cigarettes upon the sea’s worn eyes. A maul of sea foam.     

What she told was rife with wonderful things.

“You remind me of someone I used to dream about.” 

And then shuffling by, on some rainy gray afternoon, a sushi joint with a big-glasses chef in the window. We were tired with days and nights. I won bread from the chatelaine vendors. I’d been low-tailing it, chancing a, “maybe,” for most of what I couldn’t hold my tongue about. The iceman was getting the wrong idea—slowly, of course. But who wants to pick up after somebody else?

                Ask me nothing. The forefront of youth skips around Union Square, holding hands with aging. Up go the elevators, fast as bullets, and nobody cheers from the bomb shelters. We’ve got swindles in the palm trees, mules on planks, and the refuse of what we were hides plainer and plainer still, in the histrionics of a cop directing traffic, in dressing up what’s always been just down, or, really, in the salads of digression or the astronomical transit of whom we’ve lost along the way.

“Think of me while you are not. You are my scarecrow, my rangy scarecrow. You make me happy when crows fly away. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my scarecrow away.”
                Then there were slides across the slick floor in socks.

“Oh, the toast is on fire.”             

                You were pasting newspaper clippings of food on a cardboard redbrick background. We had the radio on to Talk. Reviews of butter sellers, chunks of staying the same, and then there was the kettle’s screech: a selective tone of wheezed ire. You’d slant your smile over to me. There were things, always, to not say. After I get up. After I don’t ever come home. After I move the car from one side of the street to the next. After all that, we can have bluer berries than any pancake’s ever seen. Jumper cables, roller skates, and a two-by-four in the trunk. We can sort it all out later.

                Four-ways in Five Points always flashing yellow. A click’s disarming moment, what we strolled through the mud to get. Shuttered and gone, painted over, sold at an auction to some nickel-pinching real estate investor. “Boy, that’s no trouble at all. We’ll just flip the damn thing and be out of here before they catch a whiff of us. That’s right. Make your mullah and get.”

                A meager light has gone out.

                “They won’t catch us. They’ll never know what they won’t let themselves see. And what’s to get? The after-draft of us scents heavy the morning’s mist with a piney lavender, some smoke-curled roasted-acorn aroma dripping with dew and meadow grass, and maybe some maple and crushed velvet. I do not own a sewing needle but the thread’s in a shoebox inside a suitcase—the one where I’ve carved my initials next to yours in the handle.

“Let’s pretend we’re on a tour of our house. You go first. Show me where you watch birds from.”

The jobs we had. The tax forms. The receipts from hotels and restaurants. Movie ticket stubs. Love notes on underwear packaging.

I’m grinding your favorite coffee again. It’s been so long since I’ve been to the beach. Tell the rain it is missed, especially its hands. 

The right-of-way on the roundabout of us was always vague and inchoate. Just starting to swerve a bit, to glance over the shoulder, to go blind with a momentary lapse in good judgment, and to see backwards and ahead at once. And for all our reckless faith we got snubbed by jaded ghosts who’d rather be scared than scare. Rooms Available. Hot tub. Free Cable. Continental Breakfast. “And all!” you’d exclaim.

And that was, and always will be, that.

Gertrude’s in the kitchen frying squirrel and spilling milk. I’ve got my lucky centipede bracelet on. Manny’s got a new tan, and Fabriano’s got his yak stole wrapped around him like a best friend. I’ve given up questioning the Readers of Rights around here. It doesn’t help the bandits get any better at hanging out of windows and leaping from rooftop to rooftop. “Be humble,” I tell them, and myself. “There are other years than just these to have and, maybe, to hold onto too. You just never can tell, now can you?”

Everyone goes on nodding and being only who they are. The wind stinks of blood sausage and raisins. I tell hints of bourbon from spots of rye. A sign in the yard: “Do not mow the top from my mornings.”

Perhaps I am still there.

Perhaps I never left.