Sunday, September 10, 2006

MEDUSA: One Year After

After the attack on New York City I experienced a series of strange events that started me writing again after a long dry spell. I found myself unable to stop writing, as a matter of fact, and would take hours long walks through Manhattan after midnight, compelled by what I saw in the city parks, on sidewalks, wherever I went.

It was a very intense time and I still feel the effects of it.

In August of 2002 I wrote the following poem, trying to express what had happened to my view of life. I also recorded it onto CD, but will reproduce it here in written form.


MEDUSA

And it was a beautiful summer day in the middle of August 2002.
And I was feeling real good, 'cause the muse of art had touched me
and I was writing again,
and it was all just smooth sailing.

And I wanted to be outside,
so I walked up Fifth Avenue
to sit on the benches on the intersection at 16th Street.

And when I got there,
in the coveted row of four seats
that faced the Fifth Avenue summer spectacle,
I saw an old crazy woman
muttering to herself on the far right seat.

And I sat on the far left seat
and we were bookends!
as I muttered my poems to myself
and did jazz scatting to amuse myself.

And I watched the New Yorkers walking down the Avenue.

I saw a woman walking her dog, and I sang,
"walking the dog,
ba doo be doo doo
ba doo doo be doo
she's walking the dog."

I saw a man pushing a stroller with one kid in it,
and perched on his shoulder,
a three or four year old baby girl,
and I sang a goofy little blues to them:

"Daddy can stroll his baby girl
Down the avenue
Daddy can stroll his baby girl
Down the avenue
Daddy give me a piggyback ride!
Can I be up high with you?"

And everything I saw turned into poetry and music
and human joy and satisfaction.
And I was filled with fulfillment
and felt completely interwoven
into the fabric of the universe,
as people do when touched by the muse of art.

And even the old crazy woman sitting far to my left
seemed beautiful to me,
her scraggly white hair
and disheveled clothes
and her metal cart
stuffed with mysterious possessions.
And I sang a little to her
in my subtle fashion,
fancying that my soft humming
would affect her
and maybe soothe her shattered psyche
for a quick moment.
Because anything and everything
seemed possible!

****

And then, like rocks falling from the sky,
like a wave of invoked terrible power,
like being back in ancient times
and seeing Medusa!
Or terrible oracular creatures
from the mists of antiquity,
like Kaballah letters appearing
in the air in front of me
with too bright a fiery light,
I was paralyzed as I watched ....

The old woman slowly, slowly, painfully stood up,
and the big black shoe I had seen on her left foot
was attached not to a pale old woman leg,
but to a ruler-straight metal no frills prosthetic,
right out of some horror movie by Wes Craven!

And she used every ounce of will to stand,
adjusting little movements to her skirt, her sweater,
the cart in front of her that she grasped
with her old hands.
And after an eternity, defeated,
she sat back down again on the wooden bench.

And as if turned to stone, I sat there paralyzed,
unable to turn away, unable to move at all.
And she was only a few feet from me
but did not acknowledge my presence
by even the most microscopic human sign,
all her will and soul focused on the simple act
of going
from sitting
to standing.

And once again, with idiosyncratic movements
of terrible complexity,
she rose again, sagged, rose again,
gripped her wheeled cart with her one hand,
her cheap metal cane with another,
and just stood there, inside this weird tragic
makeshift conveyance.

And I thought, "She will never be able
to take even a step,
she's going to drop down dead
right in front of me,
and all I can do is sit here!"
And my tongue was struck dumb
and my will suspended
in a swarming roar of noise
that deafened my ears.

And I felt a scalding wave of shame
pass through me,
and a gibbering demon voice in my head
trying to justify myself.
"Well there's nothing you can do for her!
Whaddaya you gonna do?
Take her in a cab to a shelter?
You don't have any money on you!
Ask her if she needs help?
You might give the crazy old woman a stroke,
or maybe just make it all worse,
cause her mad routine is what's keeping her alive!"

And then, just as suddenly as it came,
the wave receded,
and I was empty of every feeling,
except the terrible weight of the witness,
sitting in awe before a power
so much greater than I
that everything in my whole existence
shrunk
into
nothing
at
all.

And she started moving,
in agonizing, slow motion,
east on 16th Street,
and crossed Fifth Avenue
one miserable, agonizing step at a time.

And frozen, I watched her cross Fifth Avenue
and head down 16th Street
till she was out of sight.

* * * * *

And then, as though released from a magic spell,
the world of Fifth Avenue came back,
strollers and children and dogs and lovers
and old people and gangs of friends
and trendy young adults
in such color and brilliance, I almost swooned!

And once again, everything was smooth sailing,
and my muse of art returned
and New York City's beautiful Fifth Avenue beckoned,
offering me all the riches of America,
and it was a beautiful midsummer day.

And another old lady,
this one with carefully quoiffed white hair
and a sour, disapproving face,
sat in the seat right next to me,
giving me a dubious look for a brief moment
before moving her head away
to stare straight ahead of her.

And I felt exactly the same as I had
when setting out for the benches,
exactly the same.
And I went on with my life after that.

Yet out of time, or reason, or sense,
the image was seared in my brain
of the one legged Medusa woman.
And every time I found myself ready
to rebel or digress
when my muse of art seemed
to be asking too much of my human brain,
her image would appear,
and a flood of power would infuse me.
And I would surmount all obstacles
because of what I had witnessed.

And I knew I had broken the cardinal
and rightfully sacred rule of New York City dwellers
by looking up into the eyes of my fellow man
as I walked through the town.
And I knew I had crossed the line of fate
when I allowed others to look
into my own eyes and see deep inside.

I will surmount all obstacles
to remember,
in terrible anguish and joy,
Nine-eleven.
New York City
With love supreme
from my naked human soul.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anya said...

Kitty- this is good, real good. I could've been there, feel the air, smell the time. Sit on the bench and groove with the world until something really earth shattering happens.

1:20 PM  
Blogger FireCrow said...

This is extraordinary kitty. Thank you, I get it.

7:41 PM  

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