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Seeing the Fringes

I realize that through many years of living elsewhere, I’ve noticed things…more. As the years passed, my mind automatically latches on to what at first seems inconsequential, but eventually holds something of reflective importance.

Poetry is the bastard child of wanderlust. When one has many versions of what is “familiar,” one can generate a different perspective of the most mundane of things. Two weeks ago, I glanced up on my way out of my apartment, and noticed a bunch of balloons trapped among the branches of a tree. This isn’t the first halted balloon flight I’ve seen, yet by the nth time I see it, I now view them as a symbol of a dream whose flight got killed in midair—a tragedy, a loss. I begin to imagine the story behind it: the child to whom these balloons probably belonged, if he was sobbing, if he had his mother to cry to, if this was a significant character-building experience. I begin to imagine the story after it: what if pigeons untangled the balloons and let them fly, what if someone shoots at them with arrows, what if birds turn them into a nest, what if they get untangled eventually yet fall limp to the ground and someone refills them with helium so they can fly again. And so on and so forth.

Same way out the door on a different morning, and I see a flock of pigeons grouped together, lying in wait in a line. I recall Pablo Neruda’s poem, Bird, which begins:

“It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.”

I notice a lot of humor, too, in the sometimes punishing streets of New York City. Ironically, or perhaps intentionally, a beauty salon was just around the corner. The chalk marks read, “The cruel hand of fate could use a manicure. —Elbowtoe.”

Walking home from taekwondo one night, a friend pointed out a birdhouse hanging from a tree branch. A few days later, I came back on an afternoon and took a photograph:

I took another photo, this time showing it across the Hotel Chelsea. Because of its controversial history, I’ve always associated it with death and the macabre, and so having a brightly painted birdhouse, which recalls life and hope among other things, seems an evocative contrast to see, here in the city of many contradictions.

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