The streetlight is a nocturnal Sentinel staring down. In some cities in other parts of this it could tell of the cries of drunks stumbling from closing bars, ambulances flashing in its cast shadows. On the street with sleeping homes it tells only of the snow that cradles its base.
He lies on the steam grate under a thin blanket and plastic garbage bags, sleeping soundly lulled by vibrations of a passing car, back to the Ellipse and grand white house, oblivious to footfalls of tourists and joggers. Steam seeps upward through his tattered clothes, he is back in-country, lying at the fringe of the jungle, awash in sounds, neat cast up from furnace earth, cutting through fatigues and the heavy canvas and steel toes of the boots, into skin, to pool on muscles held taut, twitching at the first heard whoop of chopper blades or stirring of branches and flora in still summer air which hangs, a shroud. Sun rises slowly, bathing the obelisk in a faint peach glow, he rolls, crushing the fading, wrinkled photo of three boys lost, from a different world, standing in beer soaked mirth, leaning on rifles. One night, trees oozed forth shadows, black angels, and his hand resting in a pool of blood and viscera with whom he had roamed the bars of Saigon and Bangkok, invincible knights before their armor turned to rust.
You have no sense of being on an island standing on the corner waiting for the light, caught cursing those who block the box. It is odd having to look up to see the sky, gray on this day, but here the horizon is only chrome, glass and stone. It is only from the 45th floor that the river brings you to ground.
Walking down this road I would like to see a rice field golden in the morning sun with a great mountain rising behind it just around the next bend. I would settle for a town its lone Temple quiet, awaiting the morning bell, the call to sit, with maybe a cat at the base of a statue the Bodhisattva. I am ready to bow deeply to the first monk I see this day, but my reverie is broken by the barely dodged wave thrown up by city bus running late and fast down the crowded street of this upstate New York city.
The lake in Central Park and its cousin rivers reflect the gray of a cold sky, an April afternoon. None of this is seen by the multitudes traversing the streets and avenues, a people who barely remember the sky.
From twenty stories up lightning rends the fully fogged sky, a translucent gray curtain hung from an angry black ceiling. Nearby buildings and the streets below fade into misty oblivion. Even the approaching dusk sits back in wonder.