Notes on 94th Street

Broadway Music, in NOTES ON 94th STREET


The musicians at the newsstand
are singing
they sing and play instruments
the saxophone and cracked guitar
bawl and whine over exhaust fumes and garbage dust
they play and play the dirty black cap open between them
on the ground –
two old men for pennies.

And a big, drunken woman laughs
laughs over her balloon stomach
she pulls up her sweater to show it
the string holding up her skirt
hanging from the big white belly
she laughs through the spaces between her teeth
her mouth looks purple and half-vacant
when she opens it
she shows the old men her distended belly
as if it were fruitful or cherished
she lifts her paper bag to her mouth
like a trumpet – and drinks.

She is singing now, softly, then begins
a hard hoarse cry of a note
and holds it. She is singing –
a little wine left in the bottle
the flavor that was in it
a harsh joy in the emptying

And the old men sing with her
they dream through the curving wood and metal
and the forms of the sounds that go out
as if the dirty newspapers and today’s news
the people running up subway stairs
the dogs the pimps the hustlers the
gleaning-eyed girls, the howling police care
their bullhorn commands, the litter
and dust-filtered daylight
as if these held the moment of art
as if it could be mad
from the unlovely flesh, half-clay, half-dust
as if it could all be molded again, and the players
were gods empowering a new music

the big-bellied woman
and the musicians
at the newsstand