Streets of Manhattan

I long for the cold streets of Manhattan. If only temporarily. I walk those streets and feel the city pulse through my feet, music at my ears beckoning entrance, something hard, as hard as the city itself. Steam and screeching brakes. Being where I belong and don’t belong at the same time. Pizza and jazz, fireside chats with bourbon, shredded door mats and cold eyes flashing, people walking briskly, so many people. Truck doors slamming shut, steam shot out in front of faces. Knit hats and deliverymen wearing gloves. The smell of coffee and baked bread, the smell of vehicle exhaust, fragrant with doom. Book shops and restaurants teeming. The familiar Manhattan scent of shit, somewhere nearby there’s shit, gray sky and air replete with cold moisture. Concrete and asphalt dreams. Brad Mehldau maybe, I walk past a shop and see people sitting inside by candlelight, laughing, holding mugs. People inside eating and talking about Socrates and how he fucked the world. The birth of tragedy. Cars stacked atop each other in garages, filled cages of cars and men in coats attending them. Violence in my ears, the city is violence incarnate, jutting glass and steel, phallic and arrogant. Men and women walking dogs or it’s the other way around. Old women leaning and plodding toward some unknown destination. Where do old women go? People across the street yelling, I can hear them through the music, young black man gesticulating. The park frozen over but still children bound bundled and padded down. John Coltrane is angry. The lower west side hums with a past I cannot see but is nevertheless there, ghouls in crossing. It is never dawn here, never dusk. Only light and darkness. Street signals flash red then yellow, then maybe green. Hold my hand, baby. Look both ways. Don’t ignore the man in the wheelchair, his cup extended out toward you. We have nothing, sir, we also have nothing, a different type of nothing, bless you. Freighters in the water carrying ungodly weight less than half a mile away. Imagine all lady liberty sees, bearing witness in stone silence. You could live here, they say, you could live here, too. Give up everything but your anger. In fact, Dave Douglas and the cornet speak, in fact, take your anger and sharpen it down to a needle-point. Hate the city and thereby love it. Hate the people, move past and through them at all costs. The subway is your friend and nemesis, screeching intolerably, this is where artists live, this is where killers live, rats too. Black men and old white women, Portuguese cooks and Korean shop owners, lucky charms of yesterday crushed, pounded into the pavement. The smell of piss, ex-con bar owners with shifty eyes talkin bout the Giants, fuck em, I’m done, thirty years I been a fan but I’m done. Pizza and jazz. Young people in second-floor taverns working three jobs to pay the rent, a cell of their own choosing, a haunted closet of paradise. Can I get you something, they say, a question that tapers off and descends so it’s not a question at all but a challenge. Yeah, a bourbon, Brubeck says, sitting at the window and watching em walk through the east village with a purpose lost to me, carry your weight,

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