In the Blink of an Eye

I looked into a pool of rainwater at the gutter’s shallow edge, where the surface, looking-glass-perfect, inscrutably flat, became a portal to the dark, plunging tower of a skyscraper, vanishing in glistening three-dimensional detail into the churning clouds below, an upside down sky wreathed in gravel…a magical lake…in which I saw a point of light, and a flash, and a vision…

…in which I saw a sun, and a moon…in which I saw a future, and a past…in which I saw a talisman, a prophecy, a life…in which I saw a thousand things…a wing, a shell, a flame…a glassy stone I collected on the beach…a decade that passed before my eyes…

the surface of a lover’s eye…a raindrop on the window of a studio in Waltham…

…and I watched the raindrop, like a prism, or a sphere, its surface gliding down a wall of glass…as the painter slept off his wine in the last ramshackle house in Cambridge…in whose darklit glass I saw last light at the cathedral of Montmartre, reflected off the darkened lenses of a lady who turned to look as I crossed the busy street, when recognition cracked like a gunshot in my mind, and erased all memory, as if burned off by muzzle fire…which erupted from a pistol, fired by a boy…hunting a chipmunk, which he shot through the eye on a Montana mountainside, above which I saw a cloud at dusk, that changed from a dragon into a ragged scrap of silk with the billowing wind…that changed with the change of seasons, with the sun, the moon, the rotation of the planet into winter…where I saw the rain fly sideways on a Pacific beach, where I flew a kite and forgot my life, and wondered if I could not live off the wage of a shopkeeper’s assistant on the wharf, let my dreams dissolve in surf, forget the world forever, let my tiny name diminish into ellipsis…the same ellipsis in whose dots I saw the same small stone I’d seen before…a silver chain of tiny links on a lover’s neck…the distant stars…or their inverse, the black dots of spore beneath the covered edge of ferns…the eyes of fish, of crows, of snakes, one of which held still, its neck a stiff and upward curve, which did not strike, and in whose mercy I felt all the tenderness of mercies, and of the fates, and furies, in whose silence I heard a doctor say the dance had made my body lock, as if my joints and limbs were doors a caretaker could bolt closed for winter, or in the final hour of march, when snow melted, ice cracked, and in the icy street I found a key, lying cold between the flagstones, and took it up, and wore it, dirty, on a string, as if by attachment I could be saved, as if my lifeline were its cotton strand, in whose threads I saw the weaving, striking shoes of two fat dancers, their staccato steps like matchstrikes and like knives, their Tango danced as if that instant they would die, on their footprints, on the blonde and humble planks…

 

of shelter deep in Argentina, where I walked the sun-drenched streets and looked into the eyes of a legless man on a wheeled board, begging for money while yards away men-at-arms loaded metal cars with cases of currency, machine guns at the ready…until their shots rang out, their echo lost to the roar of the city which reached upward to the balcony of my aged hostess, a wise woman who prepared me coca tea the week the Argentines beat the Brits, vanquishing the Falklands’ memory on the football pitch…as if it were a battlefield washed over by a roar of voices, which covered the city, whose sky lit up with flares and rockets, bombs thrown aloft by the celebrating public…in whose echo I heard the insanity of war, the joy of desire, the cries of infants…in whose eyes I saw the eyes of an old man looking up at me as he scattered seed for pigeons, which still held fascination in the eyes of a child who jumped for joy as the birds took wing…while I sat on stone steps and remembered…

 

…the stoop of a Philly brownstone…where my grandparents had slept…where a Naval officer’s wife prayed for him through blackouts, as he picked up the severed arms and legs of kamikazes from the charred and bloody deck of a destroyer in the Pacific…

…in whose distance I saw all countries, and all peoples, in whose distance I saw the flags of a thousand lands like a colorful quilt, in whose warmth and comfort I conversed with a German actress who played as a girl in tunnels, in the bombed out remnants of an SS base, at the very spot I danced, worlds and decades later, in the Staatstheater, built atop the wreckage of the war, playing a Jew enraptured by the bottle dance, in whose steps I made my imprint on the stage, in whose auditorium the crowds gathered in a day…day in, day out, week in, week out…under whose proscenium I saw a dancer leap into the arms of her waiting lover…where I heard gunshots, and saw death, and life, and brilliant lights, and terrifying darkness, and great beauty, and terrible destruction…where I saw a baby ballerina in a pale shift, staring into flood lights as if overwhelmed by stars, where I saw the Mariinsky dance the dances from a century before…

 

where I saw futures, and histories, and dramas, where I saw a magical abyss between the footlights, as if I were above the earth, and they the stars…in whose constellation I saw unfathomable depth, and remembered the citizens of Kundera’s, whose laughter floated them up from earth, in whose grit were wrought the flagstones, and the country roads, and empty space of gardens, and of backyards, and of streets, the world and third world over, in whose common earth there was a pit I dug, five feet deep, with my brother and the other kids who helped…convinced we could dig our way to China, decades and light years off whose coast I saw Taipeh…among whose millions I became nostalgic for New York…strolling the wide sidewalks at dusk, drunk from jet lag, my closest and most distant memories adjacent in my mind, that vacuum and that fullest place, where there flew a triple saut de basque, a ballet student with too much thrust, who tried too high, and floated, incredibly aloft, all of us aghast at the long moments we beheld before his returning to the earth, whose solidity, and sun, and heat, were trapped under the footprint of that building…

 

not that footprint deepened by the baked cracked heels of an old woman I saw in Paris, crossing the street before me, in April 1989, a human being so grounded she would never fly, not until her death, which could have come that day, that year, a week or two before; my heart leapt as I walked with my father and brother into a crowded square in Geneva, where thousands teemed, chanting in unison for the freedom of Kosovo, in whose wars my good friend photographed the murdered dead, and made a record for the army, in whose ranks there rose an artist, who photographed my lover naked, in abandoned buildings of the city, in whose streets I saw the arrogant, the learned, the bohemian, the mute; in whose streets I danced and saw the dancers dance, in whose streets I saw the revelers, the ravers…murmuring, and milling, outside the basement exit of a secret party, a cloud of steam rolling upward from their backs…into the cold night sky, where the distant throb rose from below the street, the rhythm of their anthem…

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