Thursday, March 19, 2009


While riding downtown on the subway yesterday, a mother and her young son sat across from me. It was mid afternoon, the subway car half empty and quiet. The little boy sat in an oversized blue ski parka, the hood pulled over his head. The front snaps of the parka were closed and covered his mouth and nose, while two chocolate eyes peered from under the hood. The mother unwrapped a red lollipop and placed it in the boy's unyielding right hand. The boy continued looking straight ahead, refusing to taste the lollipop. He held it in a stubborn fist at chest level, his elbow bent at a right angle as if holding a pitchfork. The mother admonished him to lick the lollipop, then unsnapped his hood and guided it into his mouth. The boy's lips refused at first: it could have been made of liver. Slowly, as the train neared midtown, the boy warmed to the idea. He began twirling the lollipop around in his mouth, releasing more sweetness once reassured that it wasn't poison.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Riding down to the UWS an old Hasidic man entered the subway train at 181st St. He wore the traditional attire: black suit, white cotton shirt, black felt hat. His clothes hung in folds from a tall, bony frame. His greasy white hair stuck out like straw instead of hanging in a frame of side curls beside his face. His ankles showed bare beneath his trousers and his feet disappeared into worn black leather shoes. His right hand trembled, drawing circles as if endlessly screwing in a light bulb. He sank to the subway seat, his eyelids closing above sunken cheeks that dove into a scraggly white beard. With his left hand he reached across his belly and cradled his right. With this comfort, the right ceased its endless motion and all was still in the solace of sleep.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fuchsia Skirt

Walking on Cabrini Boulevard sometimes I pass an Indian woman in a full circle fuchsia skirt that hangs to her knees. Black leggings cover the gap between the skirt's hem and the brown boots that slouch below her knees. She wears a boxy wool coat, too big for a frame that doesn't reach five feet. A black felt bowler hat, the kind shown in glossy travel pictures of Ecuador, warms her head. Twin black braids escape the hat and swing along her bent back as she sorts through garbage for recyclables. Last Wednesday beside a tree she stashed two treasures: frying pans, one slightly larger than the other, still usable. A man stopped and eyed them admiringly as if to say, amazing the things people throw away in Manhattan. She interrupted her work and said in Spanish through a smile flashing with gold caps, those are mine. His responding smile betrayed embarrassment. He continued walking, she continued searching.