Monday, April 21, 2008

the weight

an meáchan

Taj said he'd meet me in the Sheep Meadow at four, but I was there by two, feeling kind of loopy from the too early summer heat that was saturating the city, and I pulled off my shirt and lay on it on the grass with a bottle of Gatorade and the Daily News and a book of Gregory Corso's poems that had been jammed in my back pocket.

Over there a father kicked a soccer ball to his two sons, maybe two and four. Over here a baby climbed from mom to dad. In the distance three preppie types, no doubt from private schools in New Jersey or Connecticut, tossed a ball back and forth with their expensive lacrosse sticks - posing with every catch. Beyond them four Koreans practised a slow-motion Asian exercise routine.

"I stand in the dark light in the dark street / and look up at my window, I was born there. / The lights are on; other people are moving about. / I am with raincoat; cigarette in mouth, / hat over eye, hand on gat. / I cross the street and enter the building. / The garbage cans haven't stopped smelling. / I walk up the first flight; Dirty Ears / aims a knife at me... / I pump him full of lost watches." and I fall asleep, the smell of just cut grass fueling the softest of dreams.

In a wide glen an hour west of the old stone city my Da played football with us in the thick clover. He was teaching us how to get air under the ball, how to pass over the midfield, but really, we were just playing catch in the sun. And over there Ma sat and read in the quiet of having all four children occupied by things other than herself. She smiles to herself - it is the most vivid of memories - as if all the cares had been lifted.

I woke up with a shadow thrown across my face. "You're probably claiming you're on the clock right now, aren't you?" All I could see was a looming figure against the sun. I closed my eyes and re-established which grass I lay in. "Some job you've got." "It's tough, ya know, but someone's gotta do it." He threw a thick pile, held together with rubber bands, down next to me. "Check out the pics of Hunt's Point," Taj said, still looming. I pulled the package apart, opened the string closure on a department reuse envelope that was stiff to bend. Photo paper. "When were these taken?" "Wednesday night into Thursday, maybe twenty-three hundred to oh-two-thirty." "You ran all the plates?" "Yeah, that's in there too." I followed along by pulling out the print outs.

I got to my feet. Pulled the shirt back over my head. Taj continued to loom. He's got a foot, maybe more, on me. "Mighty tall for undercover," I've said, but he could be a Bronx goon, so he's not out of place prowling the terminal market in the off hours. "Where you off to now?" "I'm supposed to try and crash a birthday party in Long Island City. You know, work, I hear you used to do some of that." "Not really." "Yeah." "Yeah, well, I guess I should go downtown and see how this adds up." "Gonna let us know?" "We always do." "No, you don't." "Well, we've got funny rules," I told him this, but nobody really understands what the Intelligence Division does. "Yeah," he said, and walked casually off toward Fifth Avenue.

I bent down and picked everything up and slipped the papers into the middle of The News, somewhere between Dear Abby and the classifieds. I stuffed the book back into my pocket. I'll go back downtown, I figured. I'll walk down toward Rockefeller Center and find something to eat in an air conditioned restaurant and catch the train and go start adding this stuff into a database that might suggest the details we need on these particular dope dealers. And then I'll see if I can make some assumptions. They were paying me to make assumptions. But I knew that I wouldn't do that for a day or two. It was too hot, and I felt too lost in time.
"Of course I tried to tell him," Corso wrote, "but he cranked his head / without an excuse. / I told him the sky chases / the sun / And he smiled and said: / 'What's the use.'" All around me I heard the sound of kids free on a summer day. I drained the Gatorade as I walked through the field, and tossed the bottle in a trash bin. It made a hollow "thunk" as it hit the rim. But the still air remained silent, and my footsteps on the lawn made no sound at all.

copyright 2007 by Ira Socol
first poem is Birthplace Revisited by Gregory Corso from Gasoline.
second poem is Poets Hitchhiking on the Highway by Gregory Corso from The Happy Birthday of Death.

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