Once he heard the gunfire stop, Matthieu made his way back to the restaurant. “I saw a lot of women dead on the ground,” he said, his voice catching on the “f” of “femmes.” “It was mostly women that I saw.” He found one of his friends, a Brazilian studying in Paris, lying in the middle of the street. She had been seated across from him, and was shot in the chest. Matthieu sat on the ground and held her legs, feeling her shallow breathing. She would survive.
People were running through the streets in an eruption of panic, shouting as the police arrived and tried to establish order. The scene couldn’t be secured; Matthieu worried that the shooters might return. Next to him, a man without injuries held his girlfriend’s lifeless body in his arms. Then, without warning, he ran off. The woman was about twenty-five and very beautiful. Matthieu searched for words to describe her perfect, uncanny stillness. […]
Last week’s victims were normal people doing normal Parisian things: eating and drinking together, going out at night to hear a concert or watch a soccer game. After a few days, the rhythm of Parisian life returned, but a new fatalism hung in the air. People seemed resigned to the idea that more attacks would happen, maybe soon. […]
I remembered that when Matthieu and I first met we’d discussed our upbringings, and religion had come up. His family was Catholic, but I couldn’t remember if he was religious. “I’m more agnostic than Catholic, though I come from the Catholic culture,” he said. “In any case, this isn’t really a moment when I’m thinking about religion. When I think about religion, I always think about it in connection with what’s beautiful, what’s good. But never in connection with evil. I just don’t see the connection.”
~ Alexandra Schwartz, Letter from Paris: The Long Night. Terrorist attacks and a city changed.
Illustration: Arc De Triomphe by Christoph Riemann in The New Yorker
I run out the door at 5:30 a.m. to catch the 5:40 Express to Grand Central.
55° F. Breezy. A spring day in November.
Hit me Big Man, hit me with more of this.
There, out of the corner of my right eye, it slithers. A brown snake. A full cup of spilled coffee tipped by the jarring of steel on rough track. It’s three feet away and closing in. Roots of the tree spread.
I point. He catches my eye. He shifts to the empty seat on his left as the snake veers to his right. He tips his hat, grateful.
We both watch the flow, creeping. Two men. A suit on one side with his Tumi bag, Shinola Watch and e-Reader in hand. A construction worker on the other side, with his well-worn blue jeans, a green florescent vest, steel toe boots, leather supple and well oiled. A lunch bag is tucked on top of his backpack.
He turns to his NY Post.
I turn to my e-Reader.
And my morning reader starts to pop.
Michael Wade: “I would be impressed by a college that gives credits for blue collar labor.”
NY Times: Half of New Yorkers Say They Are Barely or Not Getting By, Poll Shows
The train pulls into Grand Central. And we pour out. I approach the main terminal.
“Awwww Puppy.” I see an older dog ahead at the entrance. A golden lab mix on a leash wearing a blue vest. You look like a “Sadie.” [Read more…]
“Photographer Olive Santaoloria captures crystal clear underwater portraits. With a limited color range, Santaoloria creates imagery that features subjects frozen in various movements and poses. From a businessman in a suit to a nude woman, the photographs look as if they’re stuck in time. In her own words, the photographer describes the subjects in her work as follows: “From portraits to landscapes, the man of a thousand faces, the woman of a thousand reflections…”
6:38 am. 36° F.
November 9th. First day of overcoat weather.
I snag one of the last seats on the aisle.
Iron Man is full, standing room only.
And it’s Iron Man, not Iron Woman, or Iron Person.
Nothing graceful about a single, 145,000 pound train car.
No curves. No nuance.
A muscle car. A Beast.
Clacking steel on steel.
The wind gust from a passing train slams the air pocket in the bi-folding doors.
It’s Monday morning. Silence.
Commuter Code: No Exceptions. All cars are quiet cars. No Talking. NO TALKING.
Newspapers? None in sight.
Trees saved. Whispers of flicking fingers on digital. The new order.
I’m a Dyson DC65 Animal Upright Vacuum Cleaner, sucking up and digesting two morning papers, unread blog posts, two chapters of Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking and onto morning meeting preparation. Mr. Pro-duct-tivity. A good night sleep + all body parts functioning + who-knows-what = This Machine is Rollin’.
Metro North pulls into Grand Central.
I bolt out with the herd stampeding for the exits.
I’m humming Luther Van Dross’ Ain’t No Stopping Us Now. We’re on the move…we’re in the groove. Don’t you let nothing, nothing stand in your way… [Read more…]
Jane Kenyon and I were married for twenty-three years. For two decades we inhabited the double solitude of my family farmhouse in New Hampshire, writing poems, loving the countryside. She was forty-seven when she died. If anyone had asked us, “Which year was the best, of your lives together?” we could have agreed on an answer: “the one we remember least.” […] The best moment of our lives was one quiet repeated day of work in our house. Not everyone understood. Visitors, especially from New York, would spend a weekend with us and say as they left: “It’s really pretty here” (“in Vermont,” many added) “with your house, the pond, the hills, but … but … but … what do you do?”
What we did: we got up early in the morning. I brought Jane coffee in bed. She walked the dog as I started writing, then climbed the stairs to work at her own desk on her own poems. We had lunch. We lay down together. We rose and worked at secondary things. I read aloud to Jane; we played scoreless ping-pong; we read the mail; we worked again. We ate supper, talked, read books sitting across from each other in the living room, and went to sleep. If we were lucky the phone didn’t ring all day… Three hundred and thirty days a year we inhabited this old house and the same day’s adventurous routine.
I’m gripping the rubber handrail of the escalator that is creeping down, way down, into the bowels of the NYC subway system at 42nd and Grand Central, the second busiest station in the city. This, a ride down the shaft of a deep, underground coal mine. Black dust, airless and layered with noxious fumes. This, a visible symbol of America’s decay, its infrastructure crumbling.
There is no welcome mat out for the timid, or, for any bics: the acrophobics, the claustrophobics or the mysophobics. The incline is steep. The crowd thick and wary. The noise deafening. Even the Earth shivers from fright under Gotham when the trains rumble by. Here, here. The richest city in the richest country in the world, and here we are. The Suits. The Homeless. The Helpless. The Pick-Pockets. The Cons. The Certifiable. And the Artists, the canaries in this coal mine – their instrument cases open, serenading the masses with Bach or Mendelssohn, a thin stream of light amid this train wreck (no pun intended). Add the pungent stench of urine and this here is a petri dish of trouble. Grade? A Dump.
I’m waiting for my cross-town train and the mind drifts back, way back. [Read more…]
This morning the redbirds’ eggs
have hatched and already the chicks
are chirping for food.
They don’t know where it’s coming from,
they just keep shouting, “More! More!”
As to anything else, they haven’t
had a single thought. Their eyes
haven’t yet opened, they know nothing
about the sky that’s waiting. Or
the thousands, the millions of trees.
The don’t even know they have wings.
And just like that, like a simple
neighborhood event, a miracle is
~ Mary Oliver, This Morning. Felicity: Poems
Photo: Mr. Greenjeans
Everything is proof of it—this forced gift of existence—even the tired face of a small-town bus driver in the early morning; it speaks of longing, the endless patience you have when scrutinizing good fortune that has unexpectedly dropped into your lap. And what does life offer in return… the quiet hum inside the bus where you can warm up, a change from the frozen and bleak winter landscape… What does it offer in return? A kiss goodbye from your wife before you head out, and the mildly bitter taste of coffee with cream? The early morning fog and a dead moose on the side of a road? Like an Indian who gets glass beads in exchange for gold, you trade the suffering of existence in return for the smell of baking bread. The feel of a dog’s wet nose against your hand. The look in your children’s eyes. A bird feeder. May it all bring you joy, says this opposing, unwanted, huge opportunity—Life.
~ Inga Ābele, High Tide