Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clenched Hand

Staring out the café window, I was waiting the rain out but pleased to have the stolen time and an excuse to be absorbed in my thoughts; it was coming down with a cold, beautiful passion. Without book, friend or phone to distract me, the city actually felt like home. I lost my broken heart in the pace of the traffic and hundreds of passersby, each with their own agenda for the day. Manhattan was mine to get lost in, but not physically like in the days when it was new and huge.

I think this was about the time I began to notice my magnetism to small objects with great detail; ones that I could hold in my hands, solid and silent, and yet write their narratives in my head for hours. Old typeset letters in baskets. My grandmother’s china. The brass buttons holding upholstery. I am haunted by their stories and memories and try to will them to talk to me.

What letters were written, or stories, perhaps? Did they wrestle with words and giving voice to complex emotions that beleaguer their insides? Does someone still remember them in quiet moments, with just a teacup and a window for companions? Who chose the intricate gold on the turquoise rim? Who came to the first dinner party in the late thirties? Do shadows still dance on the inside of her mind, remembering? Did anyone count the buttons on the chair, to have something to do while waiting, waiting for word to arrive? What was it like to feel the pressure of those nervous, frantic fingers? Sigh. It all eludes me.

These were the things I was wondering about as I stepped out of the subway at the southern end of the island, wind blowing as it always does. The shrouded Deutsche Bank building is in front of me, as always. It was supposed to be demolished years ago. Lights hang on the skeletal stairs, so that people and planes know it’s there. I feel akin to that building sometimes—like I have little lights hanging on my wrists and the back of my knees so that people don’t run into me.

I breathe deeply like I always do passing the cemetery. One of the only places downtown where I can smell real dirt, I gulp it in—slowly, though, if you can imagine. Each day I mentally keep track of hostas, as if I carefully planted them myself. Without fail, their daily progress and the way they cause the pocket of financial district air to smell like Midwestern evening nearly stops my heart in the best of ways. Next to the church, it is nearly too much. How do you name the combination of beautiful, thoughtful and prayerful?

Lights dance
on stairwells
of emergency exits.

Shadows play
behind old graces,
taunting me

Estranged lives
alternately fading
Or growing.

Even in this city
flowers perfume
the night air

And sometimes
I try
to hold it
in my hand.


shannon akers said...

the jack kerouac exhibit.

new york public library.

it's free.

i'm coming.

let's breathe dirt together.

Bridget said...

stunning. and honest. absolutely beautiful.

Michelle said...

This is fantastic.

Anna said...

Kristen, I don't know quite how to say this, but I feel like sitting and talking with you creates as sense of calm and peacefulness along with a delight in life. Reading your writing is the closest way of bottling up that feeling and sharing it with other people. Please keep writing.

aaron said...

love the smell of dirt

Adele said...

I have similar thoughts about history, grandparents, and what used to be....your post was very well put!