'EXIT 66 STREET & BROADWAY'
By Jason Smith
EXIT 66 STREET & BROADWAY
With half-an-hour to spare before going
You twist the poles and adjust the shades
Letting in a shuttered light that falls
upon your outstretched body,
As if forming a farewell letter that
shapes against the high-ridged skirting.
And as you speak about our future together
Those sentiments settle like toxic ash
As you arch gracefully against the wall
and reach up towards the ceiling,
Whilst standing upon an orange-coloured
Circular, Ege Rya rug that is dashed
with occasional flecks of grey
(Upon which the bride once stood, and wrapped
Around him did the fisherman hunt!)
In contrast to a question mark that
defines our age and place in life.
And having released that built-up tension
You lift up the sheets and jump into bed
And rest your head against his pyjamas,
Which was stipulated that I should wear,
Laying down an ultra-fine excretion
Through a mantle of protective strata
Against contaminants, impact and stress,
Whilst floating dust, like ocean krill, is caught
within this emerging light.
And just before you drift back to sleep you
Ask me to stop that parting caress, which
Symbolises a hazardous wind
Booming through a subway tunnel and
raggedly striking your hair …
Like an unexpected speck striking the eye
That cannot be found but feels like a stone.
And as you resume your little snores,
In a movement of infinite recession,
An erased consciousness glanced past you.
But for most of that night I lied awake
Desperate to leave the dangerous shoals of
A broken heart and all those messages
left on your phone
After seeing us together on the
But I didn’t have the strength for such
And sheer exhaustion just overcame me.
But as we walked, that morning, between the
Lion sentinels, down Bailey Avenue
And over the Major Deegan Expressway
Towards the 1 Line, on 238 Street,
Liminal space opened up between us,
As if we were walking on parallel
Girders that have a definite endpoint,
Enveloped within a granular cloud
that grinds between our teeth,
As a chill wind sends old news scuttling past
black plastic bags.
And whilst releasing the steam from a
cappuccino, its distinct aroma
filling our nostrils,
I listened pensively to what you said:
“Something bad is going to happen today …
I can just feel it!”
Periodically, we cough up these words,
Which blow into our face their detached echo,
Like a spate of coughing heard in response
to a tension commonly felt.
But I’m still a witness to the noise, the wind,
its approach and your departure
That informs me with a pain that overwhelms
That every voice raised is in jeopardy
of silence …
The silence in the look that said:
Our paths have crossed but will not converge!
And yet always shall I hear you say:
“Have you noticed how many great songs
Samba Pa Ti … that was it … Samba Pa Ti!
Inspired by a drunk carrying his
Saxophone, staggering about, on the
Streets of New York, one Sunday afternoon.
And there will always be the memory of
Those two-shared packs of devoured Doritos,
As we crunched into each other’s lives in a cab
On Henry Hudson Parkway, our knees touching,
Bringing to mind Jamaica Bay’s whale mouth
that consumes voraciously countless words
Upon the tides of ‘sentimentology’
Drifting through our lives and breaking us down,
Which merely serves to emphasise an acute
Awareness of absence and loss and the
Space in-between these scattered boulders that
shapes our lives in a
Continuous flow of communication
As a verbalised map of neural networks,
Like freshly sprouted and succulent leaves
Enfolding the sheer grandeur of this place
With that unfolding sense of a vision revealed.
And as we sped past the dark looming presence
of metamorphic bedrock, towering
Projecting its unincorporated
Memory of an ice-bound wilderness
Abutting the rocks, sediment and silt
Moraine, beyond which is the harsh tundra
Where melt water streams flowed into the plane
And thence to an icy sea of uncertain,
grey and restless relations;
And all that remains are quartz fragments and
Bioclastic deposits dragged under
a plover’s claws.
And as I think of those eyes framed with the
Hidden intensity of sorrow,
These tears that have been, deep down, forming
Will soon fall in amongst the cracks and
Fissures of this worn-out, striated
Auden face that I see peering back at me
like an old friend:
In Bennett Park, Manhattan’s topographic
High point, where I reached my lowest low.
And amidst these scarred and near empty streets
That echo to an orange-coloured
Sodium-lamp strangeness, no words can be
Expressed through a mouth as dry as this;
No pen can be held with hands as cold as these:
They have lost their lustre and vibrancy.
And as tidal formations swell from this
Critical juncture of interaction,
I awake to the sound of an insistent
and lugubrious clunk that threatens
Disaster, at any moment, as the
suffocating smell of
High-powered heat enters my hotel room
Struggling with a heavy sash window,
I let in the February wind with its
Eye watering, buffeting, persistent
An anxious hand sliced open your letter,
Releasing a puff of disintegrated
Paper that is caught in the light of a
As words, heavy with emotion, pull me
down like leaden weights.
In retrospect I should not have encouraged
you to have read those messages …
How much might have changed if I had said:
“Fiona, you don’t need to read them!”
So much in our lives is shaped by the form
that letters take … the words … the tone:
For we live in a forest of kelp whose
Ink-soaked and fibrous landscape has been boiled,
Compressed, bleached and dried, and so they retain
Their resonant power when down flows the night
Of endless concepts upon this lone and
You said to me: “I know I can trust you …
I can see it in your eyes.”
Where is that trust now, and what is it worth?
Like scattered ashes from the night before:
“Of Eros and of dust.” (Auden, line 96)
Reality is morning’s realm not the
Magic of blue hour’s nocturnal light:
An impure light, below the horizon,
That is seen through a dark and convex eye:
For this is the light of appetence through
which our fallen souls do see.
But on that evening of serendipity,
The place I phoned you from, at the junction
Of 66 Street and Broadway, expressing
My disorientation, turmoil
And you, just a few blocks walk away,
Redeemed me out of that situation.
We both knew the significance of its
Synchronicity, acutely aware
Of its interconnection in our lives,
As if passing, at great speed, over
Its jolting movement throwing us together.
And you kept on looking, as I was speaking,
With a look that was beyond the event …
A kiss on the cheek and then you were gone
That captured a moment of deep impact.
Even all these years later and the power
of it still
Resonates through my chest with a thumping
A relationship that never was, and
Yet has slowly evolved and developed
Like a grinding, cracking glacier shelf
Scraping away at our emotions down
To the bedrock of our identity,
That exposes a firm foundation,
Which is the rock of our ascension.
And upon this rock a confluence
Of longitudinal stretching, tidal
Formation, melt water wedging and
Seismic activity creates the right
Conditions for a calving event …
For this birth is an inconceivable
Gift that has come into this world from
As a collapsing, awesome, fearful roar
That reconfigures the atomic weight
of all these moral elements,
Played out on a canvas of unified
stasis in a studio barn in
Springs, East Hampton,
Which traces the course of this secret love
that spells its nameless name.
And this is where I want to leave it …
Remembering that brief moment when,
With our genial driver, as city shadows
Drift into our cab, we approached the
Blue-lit expanse of George Washington Bridge,
And you lyrically expounded on that
Spanning the Hudson … spanning the night.
Auden, W.H. “September 1st, 1939”
Jason Smith was born in Croydon in 1962. He is married with no children. He has been working on the railways, as a Station Assistant, for twenty years. He is self-educated with no published credits. In 2001-02, he part-financed poetry readings in NYC by withholding his rent payments.
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