Two Poems

By Gary Beck

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Outer Borough

In Brooklyn, when night begins to fall, a cemetery silence invades the residential areas, punctuated by occasional passing automobiles, or by straggling fragments of a grey mass, three million strong. The more venal and corrupt sections of the main avenues, where night life runs riot until midnight or one a.m., offer dull movies, dingy pool rooms, streamlined bowling alleys and drab ice cream parlors. At one a.m. the night life dies of shame, for dreams have moldered here. Only De Kalb avenue struggles on to the hours near dawn. Rebellious spirits from neighborhoods dormant flock to the scrotum of Brooklyn, unable to resist the siren-call in the desperate search for willing female flesh, waiting to be fondled.

Murmurs of Discontent

In darkness are the dreams of passion born; and suddenly when time has grown oppressive, and all things tasted, savored, have been forgotten in the chronicles of memory, for the weary page has closed upon another road, new visions transport the soul, the taste of river-air, where the current flows to the sea. The heavy salt tang ringing through dilated nostrils opening the pores of all one’s being.

In darkness the spirit roams and seeks all the forgotten smells of outworn time. And overhead on the shadowy, vast Manhattan bridge the roar of a train breaks the aborted silence with a thrusting snarl, while carry sleeping corpses to a different world, a world of internment.

In the burning realms of time, each day at the appointed hour, fixed by some dread, inexorable social monster, mankind swarms into the dense fog of city streets. And forever looking forward and behind to find an undiscovered road which will lead away from the furious boredom and the desperate waste of each empty day, the surging, groping man-tribe, more potent to the spirit than the power of the flood, every morning, noon and evening courses through the lanes of the great hive, intent always on arriving somewhere, the unfound land where milk and honey flows in abundance, and where they neither spin nor sow, yet reap much. This craving flames within the breast of each hungry seeker passed on the street while we forever look at every stranger’s face, nourishing the hope within that there is someone to shatter the massive wall that sets all of us unalterably alone.

O strange shapes and dream-like forms that pierce the cape of silence of the night-tide. Along the highway great trucks gasp and roar and belch their smoke. Across the river, the puff and bellow of a freight train and the whistle of solitary men patrolling vast work yards now desolate and still. Nearby the strange sound of wet leaves brushing each other, as a wind driven caress soothes sleeping men. And yet in another land, in some lost time, men swear and whore and fight and build great dreams of hunger for women’s love, who cry cries of grief in man’s praise. Horns sound, rending the silence and ships creep through the river fog, until they reach the clear sea. Then great engines throb, driving a metal hulk through surging waves, and in the fog-bound night on the rivers shore men watch the shadow-shapes disappear in the darkness and yearn to be upon a cold and windy deck, alone, crossing a great ocean.

And time hurries by always on fleeting wings that crush tendrils across a searcher’s face, seeking to pluck all of the hidden life from a passing stranger’s glance and always in the dim passage of night, remote image’s of childhood jump into consciousness, remembrance of a lost day upon a beach somewhere in Long Island covered with flowing dunes of dark-kissed sand, hidden from the road with only the faint echo of automobiles pursuing the silence and the crashing chorus of great breakers thrusting on the shore in climactic  throes and on the wind blown beach a lone child’s voice pierces the stillness: “Ghost, ghost, where are you ghost?” Voice that spoke to us in the silent, lonely watches of the night, where are you now?

And can it be that someday we shall sit upon the creaking steps of a receptacle for the aged and useless, with dreams forgotten, passions grown cold and watch the young, lithe bodies passing in jaunty, assured strides, in the fullness and glory of visions to come?

Cast adrift, we are lost upon a vast, lonely sea and we are always apart. We pass each other in the dark and see a stranger’s face and coldly turn away. We see the face of one we have passed and known and yet we nod and continue and all the while the heart’s soltitude clamors against the lust of flesh to speak, to say just one word that will shatter the barriers of each man’s voice and forever, as we pass the strangers to our flesh, we call in the night for some unknown face to render us tranquil.

How many hours of wasted, vital unused time spent in lethargic revery while riding the subway. Each moment, each precious unused piece of time, while elsewhere, anywhere in the streets of life, great events transpire. And we sit in the cold discomfort of a rocking subway car and pass through the rigid bowels of the city and each pause at a station gives birth to impotence.

All of us live beneath the vision of the limitless sky and forever, as we are carried through the innards of the great hive, we hunger after uncharted clouds and the distant, undimmed stars. Mile after mile we pass the drab and dreary subway platforms and save for some grey-people, the half folk of life, we sit victims of aloneness.

Gary Beck