The city of life: New York City Chronicles

By Naomi McPeters


Shrouded

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.

 

Bryant Park

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

Who.

When there is nothing outward to fear

The inward isn’t as terrible.

And vice versa.

 

Unafraid

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.

 

Train

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

And beg

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.