Walking Mid Town. With Keats…

Early evening. Heat shimmers from the asphalt. I stand waiting for the Don’t Walk sign to turn…I’m three blocks from the entrance to Grand Central and my Metro North train ride home.  Hulking skyscrapers, mid-town Manhattan Gods, offer shade, a welcome cover to a day that needs to end. You are spent. 

And…as I stand waiting, here they come. Non consecutive lines from the Keats’ sonnet Bright Star

The moving waters at their priestlike task…
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell

And why Keats? Why this poem? Why these lines? Why now? What algorithm upstairs decides it’s time for this?  Here on 42nd Street, so far from the glacial waters of Home, so many galaxies from The Rockies, so many months from snow.  Yet, and somehow, and for some reason, it’s pulled up.

I feel the pillowy softness of snow in August, and the cool melt of crystals on my tongue. And I’m swept away, miles from the cacophony of horns, engines, tourists and the sweltering August heat.

The light turns. I walk. I cross the street and the smell of fried chicken fills my lungs…I inhale deeply…tantalizing. Keats’ grip on me vaporizes.

Smoke billows from his food cart. A heavy-set, middle aged man vigorously chopping chicken with a sharp edged, stainless steel spatula. It’s Halal Chicken and Rice frying in middle eastern spices and garlic, and God knows what other magic potion is rolling around in the mix.

He dips his fingers down into a jar of maraschino cherries.  He grabs a single cherry by the stem, cranes his neck back, opens his mouth and clips the cherry from the stem with his teeth. He pauses. Smoke from his fryer billows around him while he savors the sweetness of cherry.  Bliss. He tosses the stem into a trash can and grabs a towel to wipe his hands.

He catches me looking: “Chicken, Sir?”

I smile, and wave him off. “Smells amazing. But no, not today thank you.”

I turn to continue down the street. The food cart is now a block away at my back. And I know, I just know it was a moment. One among Billions and not dissimilar to Daphné du Maurier‘s moment in Frenchman’s Creek:

“And a feeling came upon her, as though a hand touched her heart, and a voice whispered in her brain, ‘I shall remember this.’”


Notes:

  • Inspired by: Julian Barnes, The Only Story: “Memory sorts and sifts according to the demands made on it by the rememberer. Do we have access to the algorithm of its priorities? Probably not. But I would guess that memory prioritises whatever is most useful to help keep the bearer of those memories going. So there would be a self-interest in bringing happier memories to the surface first. But again, I’m only guessing.”
  • And inspired by: Paul Tillich, from A Chorus of Witnesses: Model Sermons for Today’s Preacher: “It happens or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life.
  • Photograph: Murano Glass Cherries (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)
  • Related Posts: Commuting Series

Comments

  1. Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ah, these are the moments….

    Like

  3. Such inspiring writing Dave! I was right there with you … and shall remember this 💛

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you, Dave, for wrapping me up in a luxurious piece of writing (and living) this morning. All senses activated, with a generous splash of gratitude added to the mix.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Masterful, pal. Ya set the hook at “Heat shimmers..” and ya just kept reeling me in. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Beautiful and poignant.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Why Keats?
    ‘And…as I stand waiting, here they come. Non consecutive lines from the Keats’ sonnet Bright Star …The moving waters at their priestlike task …
    Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
    To feel for ever its soft fall and swell … Mesmerizing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post, I can smell the chicken cooking in the pot.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s what life is made of – these memorable moments, however small, that bring us inner joy,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Special moments can be found everywhere. We just have to look.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Anonymous says:

    brought tears…and how appropriate that Keats joined in to open the heart and sense of finding beauty wherever it is…then with the Halal chicken chef.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You bring tears to me with your writing…how appropriate to bring in Keats for appreciating all the beauty we can find in our lives, and the sweet encounter with the halal chicken chef.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. All I can think is the chicken sounds great, but I’d like to tilt my head back and bite the stems off of a few juicy red cherries.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Beautiful…
    I miss New York!

    “He dips his fingers down into a jar of maraschino cherries.  He grabs a single cherry by the stem, cranes his neck back, opens his mouth and clips the cherry from the stem with his teeth. He pauses. Smoke from his fryer billows around him while he savors the sweetness of cherry.  Bliss. He tosses the stem into a trash can and grabs a towel to wipe his hands.”
    I so can see this image in my mind.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Interesting juxtapositions in this piece, David. Glad you tapped appreciation of the moment. Btw, your posts don’t appear complete in the Reader again. It limits me to one a week, the one you write, yourself. Could be worse 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I always admire people, like you, who can remember (or even know) snippets of sonnets or poetry…
    And then bring that little snippet into a wonderful post like this one – searching for cool in this insufferable heat.
    I loved the Maraschino Moment. It’s funny how something so inane can so catch us, mesmerize us..
    You have a gift.

    Like

  17. Ha! You. Do. Want. Summer to end!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As my mouth watered in Pavlovian response to the mere description of chicken and rice, my tongue searching for the stem on the cherry, I too deny Keats his due and release my grip on thoughts of cooler climes and other sensory delights. Yet neither words nor scents compare to your ability to encourage both to the fore of my mind. All in three blocks – damn good.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Well said; I admire your willpower in turning down the chicken and rice!

    Liked by 1 person

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