I was fifteen the first time I went there.
Truth be told, it was the only time.
I don’t recall it as it is, a bit dirty,
the neon letters inconsistent and flickering.
I remember it bright and glamorous.
Gilt inside, burlesque and line dancing
of a kind that felt like a throwback to the forties.
The whole city was magical.
For a Virginia boy, to be allowed to run loose
through this city of wonders,
men and women dressed like fashion plates
and homeless ragamuffins,
a word I never understood until there they were.
Spires and canyons and the smell of food carts.
Hawkers and huxters. Men playing chess in parks
while prostitutes looked over their shoulders.
Museums. Oh the museums! Art
that had only been pictures in a book
showed me the difference between real
and images, left me never trusting books again.
Left me assuming everything real
was more vibrant than I had imagined.
I go back. Often as I can. Just to walk the streets.
I take pictures
and there is always a disappointment.
The images never capture what I see,
as if the camera does not have a setting
for a fifteen year old’s eyes.
About this poem
I am perfectly capable of seeing what is. Brutally so. But mostly, I choose to see things and people more innocently. The operative word is choose.
Is it good? Is it stupid” I really don’t care.
The picture of course, is from New York City, taken a couple of years ago.