Sunday, August 26, 2012



Cool dark waftings, just slightly moist,
slow movements of air hovering
in the clear black spaces
between the upper rafters inside the cathedral.
Serenity of the tomb; the dead.
Cold stone buttresses.
Limestone arches hidden behind
the heads of pillars in the wings.

At the heart of the cross,
at its very center, its altar,
the atmosphere is pierced
by the breath of angels.
Celestial glow.
Stone floor made radiant
by sunlight filtering through
the stained glass cupola above
and floating down slowly,
slowly on the backs of sifting dust,
the minutae kicked here and there
by Brownian movement, randomly,
settling, ashen.  Shed moth wing scales.
Finally to illuminate the polished marble floor
in a circle of sacred light,
edges fuzzy and fading
to silent shadow along the stone molding
in the corners.

But the circle,
the light,
has cracked the roof of the sepulcher in spring,
laid open the vault door,
and let in the scent of lilacs,
and the rustling of new leaves
fresh in the warming breeze.
It is a smile.
A beat of the Divine Heart.
Mind and Hope.


Behind, from below comes the sound of a horn
reverberating along the tiled walls,
a cacophony of shuffles,
foot falls, following after
my steady trudge after
all the others have faded away
down the corridor.
I am alone with the whispering ghosts of melody,
the thoughts of a man playing a horn
baby's wail, child's singsong,
lovers' moans and orgasms,
souls of urban men and women.
Soul of a black Heart.
Sound disembodied
as if the man had grasped
the spark of divinity and swallowed it,
inhaled it deep into his gut
and, with chakras swollen and blazing,
until his whole body and
soul were charged with its energy
and he could contain it no longer,
put horn to mouth and blew,
exhaled this power,
this transcendent smell of hallway piss,
taxis home at dawn,
spare change and turnstyles clicking,
muffled in the heated blast of
air-conditioner exhaust,
and suit after suit after suit
are stuffed in as doors slide closed.
Exhaled and gave all
for free.

I know him:
his thin, angular black face,
buffed, black leather skull cap,
small grey goatee
and horn perched like a brass bird
springing from his mouth.
Tail grasped berween white teeth and
black lips.  Serene stance.  Singing reed.
The spirit of Africa hidden
in the simple mystery of what lies
behind his sunglasses, in his eyes.
He plays in the old style
with a quick, shallow vibrato.
But he really doesn't care much about style.
He doesn't have to.
He plays the tender standards,
the old standbys, the naturals.
But he plays them fresh,
he plays them new.


Stopping, bathed in sound,
I close my eyes
and still see the holy geometry
etched in the crimson light on the
insides of my eyelids, in a
stained glass mosaic of capillaries.
Corpuscles.  Small flashes of royal blue.
White and yellow.  Forest green.
The figures come to me:
kneeling in a garden by a rock
with lambs, robes and children,
a throng of illuminated faces looking over shoulders.
Translucent.  Radiant,
the low morning light fresh behind them,
shining, silent.
In silence, so swiftly dissipated like
the echo of a cough
or the grate of a shoe on concrete.
Decrescendo; diminuendo.
And finally, the dull click of the turnstyle
or the redundancy of the exit gate clacking closed.
Sterile sounds.
Alone with their echoes.
Only alone and no more.

Sometimes in the rush between stations
on the express,
in the pumping, urgent rhythms of the
shaman wheels, I can hear an
harmonica wailing.
Wailing the blur of steel I beams,
the rushing wall of forced air
at the tunnel's mouth.
The thin reed sound.  The Pan sound,
most fitting for this place
at this speed, stopping at this station.
I get off the train and as the roar recedes
the bare walled catacombs
are left in peace.
The Saints, beggared and in tatters,
plead quietly along the gutters.
The rest continue their pilgrimage,
heads bowed, humble, obedient.
And, eyes closed for a moment,
the light comes back;
the shield is buffed in the sun
on the steppes, where the wheat grows
golden and rippling.
The breeze cools my forehead
and tickles my eyelashes
while my own feeble steps
bring me higher and higher
closer to the open, to cloud,
to sky.


The trains roar below
one after another, a
numbing rumble of mass.
Steel on steel.
Steel disks of wheels
screeching on the rails around
the turns.  Screaming.  Bellowing.
Twenty Third Street and Ely.  Union Square.
Howard Beach.  One Hundred and Twenty Fifth Street.
Watches, shirtsleeves, tense hands and
Minds wiped clean among the broken glass,
skulls crammed with the shifting light of a
television on the livingroom wall.
Mashed potatoes, roast chicken.
Boiled vegetables.
Uneasy pupae hurtling through
the blackness of the tunnel.
Taught cocoons.  Sensitive.

The dead are fallen on the platform,
the dying wander absently among the ruins,
the conductor mouths, the horn
blows three short blasts.
Bedford Avenue.  Smith and Ninth Streets.
Fourth Avenue.
Archways and rafters shatter,
splinter and fly apart.
Lofty spaces collapse,
fading with the whistle blasts
on the periphery, past my temples.
Cromwell's armored citizen army has
smashed the stained glass windows
of all the old churches,
and they have been replaced with plain clear glass.
Only dim fading memories remain.
Only visions vainly glimpsed at.

And finally, all alone again
with the sound of the horn,
the click of the turnstyles in the dim light,
in the corridor under the stained mosaic of cracked tiles:
False place names.  Tag.  Sign.
And me, alone,
one among the wiggling mass,
to worm my way out,
up into the fetid air
to where the wheat no longer grows
on the remains of where once
a cathedral had been;
and where once angels, wings folded down silken backs,
sang in tier upon tier,
and light touched and turned all to gold
there remains only a circle, sacred,
glowing on the station floor.

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