No mystery if the cats gather as this strange encounter
should have come to have emblematized the city:
for of all those who passed and paid homage to their peer
only you remained, after the room was clear.
My parrot has died in a clinic in Huntington. His life was a miracle
He was the envy of all the birds in the neighborhood. For five
years he sang a piece by Boccherini and knew a couple Mexican
pop songs by heart. When he got excited he whistled at the girls who
passed by my house.
I’m going to build a window in the middle of the street in order to not feel lonely. I will plant a tree in the middle of the street, and it will grow to the astonishment of the passersby. I’ll raise birds that will never flit to other trees, and they will remain perched and chirping to the surrounding noise and general disinterest. I’ll grow an ocean framed within the window.
The lav itself was tiny; its air felt warm and full. The walls of pale green tiles seemed to bend under a heavy film of water exhaled from my hot bath. Wet hair stuck to my face, which dripped with sweat. My cheeks burned. My eyelashes spilled water droplets so large I couldn’t see. I was sunk up to my neck in hot, sudsy bath water, soaking in my elixir of independence. I was taking my first bath on the first evening of my first day in my new home – the Y. My first day on my own. Ever.
The National Guard is on patrol
in combat boots and GI Joe camouflage,
M16’s slung down to their hips,
young as boys on Halloween,
ready for anything, and I want
to hand every one of them a bag of candy.
Saturday Afternoon on a New York Railroad Platform
As night descends, the city’s fabric, examined at eye level, no longer exists as a continuum. Now a collection of autonomous constructs artificially created by various light sources, each structure possesses the mysteries that are hidden by day. My nightwalks around Brooklyn are focused on finding the fragments that form a different sense of place, almost unfamiliar, one that borders on the imaginary and disappears with the first light of day.
My friend Alison and I have had a running joke that we’re cousins. When we met several years ago, she said, “I bet we’re related. My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Lichtblau.” Her father, like mine, left Vienna in 1938, but she didn’t know much more. Still, we called each other “chère cousine” for fun. Her father, like mine, left Vienna in 1938, and her great-grandmother had the same last name as I do, Lichtblau. Now I’m very fond of Alison, but never seriously believed we were related. The name’s not as rare in Austria as it is here, and I have a family tree going back to my great-great-grandfather—which gets us to 1811, amazingly. (My grandfather, born in 1877, was forty-three when my father came along in 1920, which partly accounts for the long generational leaps.) Alison didn’t know her great-grandmother’s given name, but her married name wasn’t on my tree and had never come up in family reminiscences. Reminiscence is to us Lichtblaus what watching sports on TV is to other families. It’s what we do when we get together. We sit in my aunt and uncle’s Upper West Side apartment on furniture that somehow made it over in 1938 despite looming disaster, and within five minutes, we’re talking about Grandma’s lover. So, I was pretty confident that I’d have heard of Alisons’s great-grandmother if she was one of us.
Eli Miller, one of the last Brooklyn seltzer men, delivers his syphon bottles when he divines need. Calling ahead isn’t his style. He has a formula that factors days, bottles, weather, holidays. It’s always right, but his timing’s terrible. At five on random weekdays, the bell rings as I face an empty fridge or race out to collect a kid. He’s a walking library of Brooklyn lore, a writer’s dream. But I’m always too pressed to listen. He tactfully ignores my impatience. “Julia, you’re my favorite customer,” he rasps, his impish smile a surprise in his long face.