Big City, Little features writing from the personal vantage by native or adoptive sons of, long-term transients in, and literary visitors to New York and/or its metropolitan counterparts elsewhere in the world. Send poetry up to 300 words, prose from 100 to 500 words to email@example.com, Re: Big City, Little.
Paris - Prague
Big City, Little
Arrogance of Windows
see them, i donít see them
on Museum Street
from Sigmund Freud
Eleven North Forty-Ninth Street
Itís more than a long, dark road. Youíre in your car, with everything you need in the glove box, back seat, trunk. Youíve got your smoke, thereís the fog, and some rain, and more fog, and thoughts of searchlights.
Maybe thereís someone beside you--or there will be--for who knows for how long. A guy thing maybe: a city, a woman, warm coffee, more smokes.
Stations drift in and out in the sing-along tease 'til youíve had enough of the night, the absolute black Van Gogh claimed didnít exist. All the tricks, like in a Dylan song, play by the roadside shoulders.
Itís what you want: not exactly lost, not exactly knowing where you are, but full of the importance of being elsewhere, speeding toward.
And so you drive on, grateful for the dashboard, steering wheel in your hands, strings of mileposts, tiny reflectors, whatís left of the white lines, rarities the more traveled, rained on.
Smoke, fog, smudge of light on the
horizon: The City, allegory-big. You on the way, bridge-buzzed, highway-wired,
everything within reach, toward the light, the place where "symbol is
the thing itself."
Despite the knotted rising
And cities too, the feeble
I am an arrogance of windows: NYC.
And Albany, that oneís for you.
My grandmotherís flesh has grown
(Prior publ. Voices over Water
(Four Way Books), a collection by the author.)
i donít see them, the bearded men
(Prior publ. The Six O'Clock News (Wind Publications), a collection by the author.)
Bent iron crosses overshadow dusty
London seemed suited to Freud in its sober, analytic guise: monarchy, Parliament, the stern duty in 1914 and again in 1940 to withstand almost alone threats to all reasonable global civilisation. Freud took refuge here after Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, and died here in September, 1939, two weeks after Britain declared war.
I was one year old and beginning a wartime childhood on the North Sea coast, the surrounding anxieties there being perhaps worse than usual. Only Sigmund would have known, and he was gone. At 17, I became a government clerk near St. Paul's Cathedral. Blitz ruins still lay all around in London, even in 1954.
I passed another fifteen years here among the poetry, art, sex, drink and confusion, and then needed respite. As Freud was my third favourite writer--after Dostoyevsky and Kafka--,I spent time and lots of money on the analyst's couch of one of his disciples: a beautiful, untouchable lady.
When I was sort of cured, I escaped that smothering city--hopefully forever.
Soon after the founding of our nation, a dedicated group of men built an asylum on a plot of land outside the Philadelphia city limits. There, the insane could receive humane treatment, like the calming psychiatric chair invented by Dr. Rush, or perhaps hot baths, or the soon-to-be-outdated leeches. There was support and concern and lessons to be learned: the so-called "moral therapy," indebted, no doubt, to the spiritual teachings of the day.
In time, the city extended around the place, and a stone wall was constructed to contain the wild ones inside, their thoughts as radical and disturbing as the great books burned under Hitler's regime. Then the new generation of physicians erected a large turret, which gave the place the appearance of a prison.
Slowly, there in the West End, an urban ghetto grew, a place of poverty and strife, surrounding the wall. And inside the wall, wealth accumulated, as the rich and near-rich sent their sick ones to be cured, cured of their disturbing thoughts.
A society developed inside the wall, resembling ancient Greece or Rome. Doctors walked through the endless halls and carpeted rooms discussing diagnoses, theories, deteriorations, remissions, discharges. Patients lived there for one, two, three years, getting worse or better, known, known in their depths and inner deaths by the dead themselves.
Then the money expired. New medicines took the place of costly walls, and doctor after doctor fell in battle, until a man in a black suit came and bought them out.
Greece fell, Rome fell. You noticed the walls crumbling a bit. You noticed the sadness in the doctors' faces. You noticed the absence of mind in place of the crazy mind. You noticed the abacus balls, fingered by the moneyed interests.You noticed that the patients went in and went out.
Some say it was like the South during Reconstruction. I say it was the end of light and dark. I say it was the slow dying of the soul. I say the ghetto is everywhere and nowhere.