The city of life: New York City Chronicles
By Naomi McPeters
Approaching the city
Watching the skyline
So many have written of the emptiness, the hole, the absence
I wonder what it is that I’m missing
Perhaps it’s the time more than the buildings
Perhaps there’s always regret in reminiscing
How do you find the heart of such a place?
Resting hope in one thing will always be disappointing.
For those of us who never got the chance to grieve: Remember
Don’t let it consume your soul
Don’t let a shroud of death blanket the city
Its heart is my heart and yours.
Ghettos, prisoners, kings
Train rides and bus stations
Endless tunnels of darkness
No one looking for the light
Does this say more about their souls, or about the darkness?
Playing chess in the park where once drug addicts roamed.
In sight of the library on 42nd street
A house of knowledge overshadowing so much death
Why don’t they enter?
The heart of the city isn’t in what we know
What we see
When there is nothing outward to fear
The inward isn’t as terrible.
And vice versa.
Sunlight glinting off the rooftops and windows a mile above the pavement
Watching the Empire State Building slowly disappearing as I traverse 7th Avenue, and later, Broadway
Then looking up to realize that I am beneath it
The world has a way of showing us the worst parts of humanity
As if that would be enough to make us want to stop living in it
Broken windows in a crumbling house
Trembling beside the railroad tracks rumbling
Its inhabitants, nowhere to be found
Barbed wire fences enclosing empty lots where weeds reach up between gravel
Air conditioners peeking out of windows
A permanent placement
And children unafraid to look up.
While we see a closed Heaven, a bronze sculpture of a Greek man, made (manmade?) hero
A hand stretching to humanity that barely touches at the tips of our fingers
As if that is enough for Creation
Rather than a holy embrace of the Divine to heal us
Unafraid, they look up to see the richness of color, a masterpiece in the heavens
While we run to museums to see beauty
We enter the tombs to see famous men who somehow give us hope, or, perhaps, reassurance,
that we are indeed among the living
While children place flowers and alms at the tombs of their parents
Finding life, somehow, in the gravestones
Joy, somewhere, in the shadows.
Unafraid to look up.
I watch the skyscraper disappear and trust that it is only because I have come near it
No longer a guidepost but a way home, so I continue up 5th, cross over to 7th
Surrounded by voices I don’t know and languages I don’t understand: A holy Babel
For humanity just can’t comprehend it--that we were never meant to find a stairway to Heaven
All we had to do was look up.
A hazy day. Ghostly forms of skyscrapers in the distance.
Screeching of wheels on rails that need oil
The silence of strangers too close together
The sunlight straining to break through the canopy of leaves, the barbed wire fence that stands as a prison gate smothering the light.
Heavy concrete jungles of ice
And signposts all the way to Heaven.
New Providence. Summit.
A mountainside couldn’t say it any more clearly.
All of it screams, let me be free.
Shadows fall on the side that hides and even the light has lost its power to break over
The sunset still is fighting
Now I realize I am the one who is suffering.
A young man straining for something only he can see
A lonely soul on an empty bench
A deserted station
The groaning tracks that click and clack
But no one is listening
It had better stop before it goes to nowhere.
We’ll be arriving there soon, but we’re not there yet.
Something else to be found, something more waiting
A singing child at Murray Hill Station.