The sound kept me warm those winter
evenings walking down Broadway
after work, when I had work, with
work and wind stinging my face.
Chaka Khan singing Prince, singing
this song, in the lights. Chaka Khan,
I didn’t care even when the people
were cold, are cold, on a show business
kind of old show tune kind of high
that I never felt. My high was different.
I could breath through New York ice.
I could walk over puddles without
getting wet, swing my arms wildly
like a tourist from out of town and
never feel I wasn’t cool. I wasn’t.
The lead singers in up and coming
bands never spoke to me. The
actresses in my friend’s movie
never looked at me. But when I
finally spoke I could get them
to laugh. Maybe even cheer, at
one place, but I think these people
knew me. Maybe they were the ones
getting paid, not me. All my years
there I never ate a single salad. It
was fried chicken and fried rice. Hole
in the wall falafel. Because above
all I wanted it fried. I wanted
these streets fried, and the women’s
faces, so dark, so pale, so brown,
so beautiful they must have been
fed fried food all their lives. And
my heart, like a camera, taking
pictures developed by my blood,
sent to my brain, that I showed to
strangers on the corner of Avenue B
and Third, that space I called home.
Harvey Keitel, Rockets Redglare, Quentin
Crisp, Rick Aviles, Christopher Reeve—
so many of the famous New Yorkers
I saw on the street there are dead
now, except for Harvey, and the
women, who would have thunk? And
who understands how the world works,
and why it hasn’t broken down by now?
And how we walk like angels, sometimes.
On those days when we’d gladly give
all our money, or crawl how many miles,
five hundred? No, just five. To avoid being
inside, on the downtown F train back downtown
in glorious, I-am-a-star, I-am-a-worker, I am
an insignificant dot on the blue-green
globe of the Earth, in lower Manhattan,
Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan.
Photograph by Jose Padua