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2/11/13

Snowed-In Postcards

It’s been snowing steadily for the last few hours. One gives in to the millions of snowflakes. Alone they are nothing, but together they pile almighty on the city.
Imagine what would be possible if each voice on this planet would rise in a concert of will!
One feels nostalgic. One endeavors to write prose poems to her friends:
Today I could reminisce about the snows of my childhood. The blizzard blows oblique snowflakes, hypnotic. But determined to look forward, I take the quail egg can from the shelf. I’ve been considering opening it for several days now. Reluctant of the unknown going wrong, what can be there, a foul sulphureous stench?
Well, new experiences! I clamor. New adventures! I crank the can opener. The tin cap falls in. I smell it before I scoop it out. No foulness.
Ok. I now shall scoop.
Such cute miniature boiled white eggs!
I savor one, then two, then three, then four.
Tonight, I shall not concern myself with the burdens of humanity.
Tonight, I shall be brazenly silly.
Tonight, no.
*
Window frost, fern frost.
Ice flowers of my childhood village home I wish to see again,
but my warm home in the tall rise of Manhattan,
its insulated windows somehow don't want, don't know, can't make them for me.
My windows allow
just the milky softness, foggy softness of snowfall
and cozy warmth of yellow street lights
framed in so many old photographs.
*
But she’s embarrassed, that she liked herself liking poetic musings as she sits in her kitchen. Unexpectedly, a surge of love for her small corner in the universe, for her kitchen. She looks forward to growing old in this kitchen. A much targeted patriotism she feels towards her kitchen, towards this moment in which she sits on her chair in the warm kitchen. She is imbued with sudden contentment.
*
She goes to bed determined to write a poem to her potted ivy, its evergreen shiny leaves above the glazed cobalt blue pot placed on a corner of her kitchen table. A poem to her ivy, its tendrils inching between a napkin holder, candle and match box, by spices on the Lazy-Susan turntable, or a repurposed can she decorated with drawer lining, between cereal boxes, then stretching on her window sill, in and out of bottles of cumin and parsley flakes, by a Smirnoff vodka bottle now filled with vinegar, crawling up on the ceiling, from time to time its head leaves drying, but new shoots dart out promptly.
How eerie, she muses, she has a potted, contained ivy. A live replica reminder of the old house of her grandma on a hill by the forest where ivy pierced thru adobe walls and grew in thick vines along the ceiling, her grandmother thinking nothing of the danger. What if the vine would further pierce the walls, make them tumble down on her?
Now she contains her own ivy in her kitchen contained in a sturdy brick building contained in a sturdy city in a sturdy country.
*
She also has a tree in her living room, slender and rich in green leaves, so like the birch tree that her mother let grow in the backyard in memory of her dearly departed son. She now can’t make herself trim the replica birch tree in her living room. When it reached the ceiling, its tip turned a right angle and proceeded to shoot new branches along the ceiling, but at a much slower rate. Its new shoots, angled, as if prop the vertical tree between the glazed cobalt large pot and the ceiling.
*
She goes to sleep determined to write a nostalgic, magic realism poem, perhaps about her dearly departed brother, while the snow piles up quietly. She shall do that in the cozy morning.
*
At 4 a.m., in the dark, a horrid clamor starts. They’re dredging the snow, she realizes, like they dredge the muddy Mississippi River in search of cadavers, not some fluffy snow off the park alleys in her sleepy settlement. No one gets up and about till noon in her settlement on a Saturday morning.
Oh, no more silence for a Saturday morning lost in reverie, no ensconcing in the warm bed under silk sheets and wool afghans. Is there some mayor’s office election coming up soon? Where are we rushing, the metal gnashing in our slumbering brains?! And the morning goes to pot.
*
She calls the Hell’s Gate P.O. number to see if they are open to mail out a package. The voice machine asks her to choose: Retail. Delivery pick up. Passport. Would you like to hear the Privacy Act? No, she doesn’t. Finally a clerk’s voice checks her zip code: mail service suspended on the account of snow blizzard.
She still wants to go out. Buy, perhaps, red peppers and tomatoes.
Fat icicles hang stiff on the senior center building scaffolding.
Two-palm high snow on the benches.
Kids shriek.
An older boy carrying a tall orange traffic cone.
Tree branches, since hurricane Sandy, pile up on a fenced green area.
A teenager with snow stuck on his back.
A sturdy woman shovels her car out of its parking spot.
It’s shoveling heaven for those unemployed young men checking the Craig’s List ads.
Won’t last long though. Melted snow dripping off scaffolding.
Floşcoteală.
At street corners puddles of melting snow, slush and brine, make people walk around, avoiding stepping in them. Garish posters with Hispanic entertainers leaping high in the air while playing their instruments, Los Bastardos, El Mexicanos, Pirate-Mariachi Band, Spanish Harlem Orchestra's “Viva La Tradición”.
An empty cardboard box sticks out in a street garbage bin saying Men’s memory foam slippers. She can’t imagine one coming out of the shoe store eagerly putting on slippers on this slushy sidewalk. The mystery of such a purchase…
Down the avenue, two red flags signal a McDonald’s.
They are state in state, these McDonald’s.
A man carrying a cellophane-wrapped bouquet made of several bunches of artificially colored daisies. Neon blue, neon green, neon yellow, neon neon neon…
*
The French nuns unflinchingly opened the thrift store.
She chooses from the three summer hats, not the yellow, not the black, romantic large-brimmed ones, but the simple, well-made, Mary Poppins sensible straw hat.
*
She passes by Francesco and recognizes him too late to say hello.
He was, the other day, pushing in front of the Liberation & Healing Church Inc., stacks of crates filled with honey dew melons. She’s used to seeing him only in that spot. She had been startled the same way when he once said hello to her on the other side of the street, across from church. He said the preacher chased him away, ill tempered. He watched her from afar dealing with the long line of people in need, waiting their turn to get several loaves of bread, sometimes a box of yogurt, fresh produce, cauliflowers.
Francesco says the preacher mishandles the donations. They had previously closed her church two blocks from where she is now because they caught her selling the food donations to the supermarket. She is supposed to pay Francesco and the rest of the volunteers $100 each, but she refuses.
Francesco has a mind to talk to her, remind her she can’t do that again, embezzling like she did on 117th Street.
Yet he speaks softly, watching for a sign from her to go back to the stack of cauliflowers.
*
In front of the school where, during summer, they shriek, bathing in the gushing water of the open hydrant, kids now free fall on the snow; excited, piping voices.
Further on, in front of a building, a boy yodels.
*
Oh, prompt cleansing of the snow off the streets is because it affects our economy!
“It is the goal and intent of the City of New York to provide timely, efficient and cost-effective winter maintenance, snow removal and ice control on the roadways of the municipality for the safety and benefit of the city residents and the general motoring public.” And they pay good money for overtime, for dredging the alleys on a Saturday morning. Ha-ha!
*
At the corner store, a team of guys unload boxes of beer from a truck with great alacrity, placing them on the conveyor belt that slides them into the dark mouth-hole of the grocery store.
In front of the bicycle repair store, two piles of gray bikes lean against the wall, a man looking at them, considering a thought, a decision. Two girls in tights, one slim, the other profuse, her buttocks jiggling, speak as if at an anti-domestic violence workshop. “I don’t like you yelling in my face. I told him so. Pushing me doesn’t help. I don’t like it. No one likes being pushed. It doesn’t help the conversation.”
The newspaper box by the subway stop, on its front cover, Blizzard Survival Tips.
*
Two young guys walk fast, hashing it out. One of them has a leather jacket with pockets with open zippers above his shoulder blades, as if prepared for his Angel Wings or Batman Wings to spring out like Wolverine’s iron dagger-claws shooting out of the backs of his knuckles. She keeps up with them, eager to ask what the pockets are for, but Batman’s busy saying, like a refrain, “I was like… I was like… I was like…” He turns abruptly to check out if she presents any danger when he senses her walking behind him. So, she crosses the street on a red light like she always does when cars are done driving thru the crossroads.
*
A decorative feather. A quail or partridge feather, perhaps on a hat. One doesn’t know her birds anymore, does one? A delicate, modest feather on the brown felt hat on the large mature man waiting for the light to turn green, determined man. A chastising, law-abiding man, waiting for the light to change, not jay walking like her!
His silhouette looms under the bridge arch.
*
A group of overweight girls with long black hair down their waists, all in rubber boots, walk briskly by a brick building, snow on windowsills. In white letters covering one wall, someone shares social concerns: peace goodwill golden rule liberty poverty justice manners police wealth defense propaganda caste patriotism power war hate suspicion exploitation food.
*
By the park, the fire engine, its red and metal glittering, waits for the light, while she runs to reach the sidewalk before its wheels speed up.
In the park where they picnic in the summer, now they snowball battle.
A shapeless snowman, a heap of snow with a small head, pitiful.
Kids don’t have wooden sleds on iron runners anymore, but slide on oval shaped pieces of plastic. Others plop their bottoms straight on flattened cardboard boxes.
Sad.
But after she walks thru the austere black and white calligraphy drawing beauty of snowed trees, she sees winter happiness. A boy slides down the alley on a sled like hers when she was little. Yes, a separate wooden underside on which you sit! Look at its wide iron runners! Now, that’s what she calls a sled. The boy stops sliding at the road curve then walks back up the gentle slope. Now his father sits on the sled, slides by her and yells: his son should call 911 if he crashes into the tree trunks.
No such danger. Slope’s too gentle and short.
In her village, the hill slope was so steep, she’d end up in the river at its bottom.
*
There’s a hipster photo shoot in progress higher up. A guy in burgundy overalls jumps in the air from a hanging rock on his long skateboard, floating, then landing on the edge of a police picket fence.
Two photographers are readily waiting to catch his brave flight in the air.
A young mother carrying her baby suspended in a harness. On her belly, hangs her large camera. The mother smiles at her, an accomplice, both professionals on the prowl to capture the winter beauty.
On a wide alley where slim people usually jog, now deserted, a girl chatters on the phone. ‘It’s so pretty. I’ll post it on Facebook. Oh, there’s no WiFi here.’
The patterns snow stuck on tree bark makes!
The sunshine honeying the side of tree trunks, patches of snow, buildings.
The American flag waving in the wind above a fort on a hill behind the park.
She bemoans city kids disconnected from nature, then she bets many have gone skiing at expensive mountain resorts.
Crunchy snow, footprints in whiteness, acoming, agoing.
Alert, eager conversations.
A woman screams on a sled pulled by her two golden brown dogs.
She walks back now, down the steps covered in unevenly battered snow. She walks cautiously. In a few years, she might look back at this day with nostalgia; she might be too frail, in time, to walk about on icy steps.
‘You got me so wild, You got me so high, Don't you see it in my eyes?’ a young female singer belts over the skate rink. Scarce skaters in red, yellow coats against the white of the ice. In green letters, a self-satisfied one-word ad: TRUMP. Says it all. Comb-over included.
A bike chained to a pole holding up the green map of the North Meadows area.
A solitary Asian boy making snowballs under a willow tree. Its yellow branches fluttering like a woman’s long hair, distressed in the wind.
*
She walks back by the lake. Brown ducks with iridescent necks dip their heads in the gray ripples of water. Are they ducks or geese? A white swan floats towards the edge, all alone, a swan fishing under water, preening herself in a lake of plump ducks. She shares her alarmed concern to a mother in a gray coat and knit wraps whose little daughter, equally wrapped in a tiny gray coat and knits, squats to talk to the swan. The mother wonders, too, why is the bird pairless? Swans always swim in pairs.
The little girl runs ahead on the park alley; her mom follows her.
The two males of the party take pictures of the ducks and then catch up with the girls; reunited they speak in French, laughing how the little girl says, C’est trés cool. And they repeat with their large voices her tiny cool, cool, cool, high above her, manly booming cool, cool. Music.
*
She takes out of her mailbox a thick glossy Bazaar magazine and an envelope containing a vintage postcard she bought on the internet. It features a sepia tone picture of the Poughkeepsie, NY Armory. A green stamp of, as if, Benjamin Franklin?
It was originally mailed to Miss Susie Shultz residing in Glasco, Ulster County, NY on September 20th, 1907 by Mabel who wrote Miss Susie this, “I will write in a few day. It is quite cold here to night. I think me and a friend will be up to spend the day next Friday.”
She wonders how cold it was actually more than a hundred years in Poughkeepsie that night. How touching to see these words with language mistakes written in ink more than a hundred years ago. No one writes in ink nowadays, or do they?
Perhaps she can capture this winter day’s postcards for someone a hundred years from now. Raise in them the same delight and bemused connection she feels now with the unknown, dearly departed, by now, Mabel from Poughkeepsie.


New York City
February 9th  2013

Proofreading by Ethan Black, blackroads.org

You can listen to its audio version by clicking here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ellaveresshow/2013/04/11/open-ended-april

Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, freedom of speech and the right to pursue one's happiness being among them, I’d be grateful.


2 comments:

  1. You have captured my attention and I so enjoyed you sharing your winter postcard with me. Thank you, Ella. <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you, ginger. still winter here :(

    ReplyDelete