impressions of New York, written on notecards during a few hours spent wandering MoMA

I mill alone in crowds of men and their face-painted women
through an exhibit showcasing the work of a woman with a camera,
who spent her career exploring the glitz-veneer of Hollywood,
where women were painted and packaged into objects to be seen, by men, for money.

Pity. Despair.

I wallow, wanting consolation.
But I cannot think where it might lie.
I don't know what I want.

I think. I want.
I think I want... a woman. But no. Something... more.

I am a simple man. A dull man, surrounded by glitz...
By people with plasticene smiles who know exactly what they want... MORE.
This is the city of MORE.

I am surrounded by snapshots,
and begin to feel that I am a snapshot.


All these moments and all these lives leave me feeling... fractured. Fractal. Fractioned.
Who. Am. I?
One, among billions.

I can feel their stories,
stacking up for miles and miles on top of me, so heavy I can hardly feel my own.

I start to move quickly from room to room.
All around me, people are stopping to stare, to feast on genius.

But I can't stop.
I am searching for an artist I know - any artist...
for the consolation of the familiar.

And then... on the fourth floor I find them - my old friends -
and the abstraction of my Self begins to re-shape and re-form from shards, back into ME.

Dali's "persistence of memory," small enough to fit in my handbag;
a Monet that covers a thirty-foot wall.
A Chagall I taught last week,
and then a Picasso - THE Picasso... his "Demoiselles d'Avignon," that made such a stir at the Armory Show.
A Kandinsky.

Old friends, long-dead; but real, here, in all their brush-spackled glory.

I want to worship, weep, wail - to lie down and sleep out the afternoon.
I am eviscerated.

I glance from room to room,
growing smaller and smaller as these towering minds crowd mine out.
Behold... the worm.

An elderly black gentleman asks me to take his picture with Picasso's "Three Musicians."
I tell him I taught this painting, too, last week,
and we coalesce, for the moment, in our mutual flabbergastion.

Now, now, NOW.

Now I know what it is to be in love.
To feel unworthy, but inspired.
To feel empty, but filled.
To feel broken, but malleably remade.
To feel tired - bone-tired,
and wanting to write poems,
to paint, to breathe, to LIVE.

I want... what?

A rock: a rock by a mountain stream.
To sit, for hours, and listen to the wind.

To forget -
perhaps forever -
a city that never sleeps.
A city where I am nothing but one in seven billion.
To sleep myself, and then... perchance,
to dream of all my old friends,
who painted their lives all over this grand-mad city,
so full of lives...

and LIFE.


  1. A wonder full collage, collision of states. Thank you. I've never been to NYC as an adult (4yrsold), much less that inspiring/humbling muse e um.

  2. Thanks, Mark! I had a whole lot of life circumstances coming together around that New York trip, which sort of compounded the overwhelmingness of it, but all around a good experience.


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