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The Traveller Unravels
Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sometimes the pavement won't stay beneath your feet, things fall apart, and the physical world rises up against you. It's the epitome of paranoia when you can no longer trust your own furniture. But it happens, readers, it happens.
Maybe it's jet lag - as I was in New York City last week, moving at a speed about five times that of my normal days. Moving and watching and listening and mind boggled by the whole experience: seeing Karen O's Stop the Virgen's. three brilliant movies by Paul Tschinkel introduced by the man himself, playing Poetry Bingo at the Bowery Poetry Club. But mainly just crawling those streets, where everything is surreally familiar from books and songs and movies, giving the whole place a dream-like quality, as if you have been here before, seen these places, heard these voices.
One beautiful moment was in Washington Square on Columbus Day listening to some old boys (ie my age) playing jazz in autumn sunshine. I wrote a poem to commemorate:
Washington Square, Columbus Day

Riffslinger play jazz in a shady corner
of the square. The blue notes ascend
from the trumpet, then fall, like leaves,
just turning. That lift, then the gentle descent
as three old guys combine, offer
the wisdom of their years through
the power of shifted air.

All over the city, different tongues
undulate, clack against palate
emerge between lips, sing songs
from every corner of the planet.
Traffic hums by, sirens zigzag,
construction workers throw metal
against metal, call out like parrots.

New Yorkers wear tight buds, close
their ears to the neighbourhood noise
create a soundtrack to each day
separate and individual, navigate
blocks and avenues, intent,
forward looking, definite,
treading their own straight way.

I’m an old girl in the square, aware
that my ears are fine tuned to hear
these notes, like secrets whispered,
coded messages hidden under benches,
unavailable to the smart couples and
their dainty dogs. The music breathes,
tracks time flowing like water, like sand.

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