Travelling Man

13 Aug
Paul Strand Wall Street (1915)

Wall Street (1915) – Paul Strand

A city buzzing with quiet desperation, creaking under the weight of its hopes and desires, regrets and complaints…

That old man barking at the young barista fumbling his order was once that young man walking briskly down the street to an interview for a job that he will grow to hate and grow old in and grow to look forward to small reprieves like coffee in the morning.

That young lady serving coffee to a barking old man while an old lady crosses the street, struggling with her groceries, which smash to the ground as a young man bumps into her, and moves on without noticing–he is already running late and can spare no more time.

That old lady returning to her apartment, fed up with the cold shoulders she has known all her life, from her days serving growling old men their coffee to her twilight years accosted by self-centered upstarts with no time for anyone but themselves.

A thousand threads weave together in the same frail cloth, here gently rolling in August’s whispering breeze, there fraying against November’s serrated winds.

“Sir? Excuse me? Sir! Hello! Watch out! Pay attention to the road! You’re supposed to be driving this bus! Goddammit! Watch out!”
“What? Oh yes! Shit. Okay. Okay. It’s alright. Just take a seat.”
“Take a seat?! You pay attention!”
“Okay, just take a seat. I got this.”

[The bus driver narrowly misses driving onto the sidewalk and into a building. The passenger sits down rigidly, still anxious. The bus continues down its route. It begins to rain.]

But sometimes raindrops do not fall into puddles,

ripples in ripples,

spreading out

fading into

streetlit reflections

broken by the footsteps of people


making plans to go,

never going

where rain drops never fell.

[Two young women sit next to each other near the front of the bus.]

“First he nearly drives full speed into a wall and now he’s driving like a turtle on Vicodin!”
“I know. This is ridiculous. We’re going to be late for the party. I hate being late.”

[The bus driver overhears this, takes heed and speeds up–now driving faster and faster…]

When wind scrapes clouds into white smearing blue skies
I hear summer behind horizons marred by buildings
smoking in cold air as though people huddled around a fire
searching for reprieve in flames dancing burlesque
at some great party where guests drink warmth
as a soft breeze skates a marble ocean massaged
by moonlight whispering reflections into wandering eyes.

“Hey pal! You need to slow down–you just missed a stop with a guy waiting at it!”
“What? Oh. Crap. Alright. Hold on, I’m going to reverse a little bit and stop to let him on.”

[The man at the bus stop doesn’t notice the bus. He is looking in the opposite direction at oncoming traffic and the sky.]

Small gusts sweep velvet grey
into cotton wisps

sailing away from themselves

up to the sun
that they hide from

cars swooshing down four lanes

ugly and stupid like salmon
rushing upstream,

says the guy at a bus stop.

[The bus driver honks. The man snaps from his musings, walks up to the bus and steps on. He and the bus driver nod at each other. The bus drives off…into a median and explodes.]


3 Responses to “Travelling Man”

  1. honeydidyouseethat August 15, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    That poor bus driver. So bleak.

  2. jef August 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Finally! Lovely and ringing portraiture, I’ve been looking for something like this. Litmus test on this sort of thing for me is its capacity to contain something of Neil Finn’s glowing lyric observation: ‘…round the world is a tangled up necklace of pearls’.This kind of writing performs a function. You’ve captured the evanescence. That’s not easy, so thanks. Correctly treated, the gossamer life-stuff is sufficiently tensile to hold a bus.Time to delve into your blog, stranger. Gregory? For G**’* sake, don’t disappoint me!

    • counterfeitcolumnist August 22, 2013 at 1:18 am #

      Thank you for the compliment. And I hope not to disappoint. Though the food is nothing to write home about.

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