New York City skyline at night

Big City, Little

Fall 2007



Big City, Lit
Nicholas Johnson


Brooklyn Bridge

  Photo:  George Kunze

It's more than a long, dark road.  You're in your car, with everything you need in the glove box, back seat, trunk.  You've got your smoke, there's the fog, and some rain, and more fog, and thoughts of searchlights.

Maybe there's 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 you've had enough of the night, the absolute black Van Gogh claimed didn't exist.  All the tricks, like in a Dylan song, play by the roadside shoulders.

It's 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, what's 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."


Nicholas Johnson is co-founder and editor of the magazine. His new chapbook, Degrees of Freedom, is now available from Bright Hill Press.