DJ Dolack on "NYC Postcards (In Dollhouse Leather Jackets)"


The freezing
young models squeeze

to their small breasts
tightly as they stalk

past the United
Cerebral Palsy of New York

at noon and all are
unsure and I emerge from

bluntly full and unwilling
to not notice
it is autumn here

in the shade
of 5th Avenue and Flat Iron

When you are in love
with the world
you cannot be too sure

When You Are
In Love With The World

it fucking hangs out

The two of you
hang out And slowly,
at the pace

of acupuncture, very gently

so that
if your attention

you look around a bit
always in some new wonder.


On "NYC Postcards
(In Dollhouse Leather Jackets)"

At readings, I usually introduce this poem as 'my love letter to New York City.' And while there's certainly a vein of sarcasm that runs through that comment, there is also a real earnestness that drives the poem. I think both represent the broad catalogue of emotions one can tangle with during a simple stroll in New York City on any given afternoon.

I work on the east side of Manhattan, over near the Flatiron District, which has become quite popular and much hipper in the past few years. There's usually a film or commercial crew shooting in picaresque Madison Square Park. Gaffers with headsets ask you cross the street so as not to get caught in the background. Tourists often mill about in the new pedestrian plazas and look for the perfect angle of the Flatiron Building through their hi-res lenses, while sirens grow slowly and crescendo to a wail on their way to Bellevue.

As I walk through the park everyday, I'm in awe of the same small group of Falun Gong meditators who remain silent and focused, particularly as a flock of tieless, blue-shirted entry level finance boys head to mid-morning coffee, trying to out-cuss each other over dueling tales of sexless weekend nights.

I go for a lot of walks.

The route I enjoy most takes me past the United Cerebral Palsy of New York on 23rd Street, one of several such centers that offer daily services to Gotham's disabled citizens. Most of them are severely physically challenged and unable to walk or speak clearly, much less navigate their atrophied bodies through the less than amenable urban landscape. I often pass by at mid-morning arrival while the aides fastidiously unbuckle and adjust wheelchairs, stepping aside to raise and lower pneumatic platforms from yellow buses. They yell-chat loudly over the idling, black exhaust spewing engines.

In nicer weather, many of the residents are taken off the busses and lined up outside the building, on the sidewalk, until it's time to head in for the day. There can be upwards of twenty wheelchairs dotting the concrete for a good half-hour, about how long it takes to get everyone unloaded and ready to caravan inside. Some of the residents have very limited movement in their arms and hands, and therefore cannot wipe their own mouths, so a steady stream of spittle drips from the part in their lips as they stare and daydream, waiting for someone to unclick their brakes and wheel them through the automatic doors. Others bounce with excitement and emit what seem to be screeches of pure terror, but are actually joyful greetings, like when a familiar aide with dreadlocks and a Yankee cap bounces up to them doing his schlocky version of the 'Gangham Style' dance as he bends and stuffs 'Good morning!' into the melody—and his audience cannot get enough.

What happens next is really a thing of some twisted, ethereal beauty. There must be a professional modeling agency on the same block. As the poem describes, waify, styled young women most likely on their way to or from auditions are often forced to glide their stilt-like, Chelsea-booted legs through the wheelchair maze, like whooping cranes navigating a shallow swamp. Once or twice, an incidental yelp of joy will shriek out from a steel chair and startle a girl off balance — maybe a heel or ankle will buckle, but they always right themselves and push on. Nary an eye meets a oversized-sunglassed eye through the slog, and eventually the cranes emerge from the morass of less fortunate, more-imperfect humanity.

And I think here, on this sidewalk on a simple mid-morning stroll, is every possible translation of beauty I could ever need. The gang's all here. The commodity-laden, physical supremacy of the models distinctive against the incompetent bodies of the disabled—wrenching out of their chairs, abandoned by the consonance of genetic code. Here is the shame the models feel as they navigate that abandonment, this time with intent and knowingness, more than a mere lucky fetus. Here, of course, is their relief and joy for their own beauty. For that matter, here is my own, be it ever more subtle! For don't I, too, feel the breeze of that luck, even across my too-pronounced nose? But here is the duty of the aides who click and push and lower and raise; here is the joy their duty brings them and the joy they impart, every schlock knee bend and foot stomp, every efficient swab of drool. Every gentle kiss on the dandruff-riddled crown, every cigarette break and lottery ticket double check. And on any near-perfect autumn day, this is how to fall instantly, perilously in love with this city all over again, despite the essays that catalogue its transformations and failures, and despite the malfeasance it can force upon its most delicate children. Despite them, but in them, too.

It is in these moments that perplex and unsettle and dazzle, the faintest taste of what you love here still sits timidly on the city's breath. In these moments, your muse makes herself fully present. She's here, just tired, and perhaps you are both a bit weathered, but she's here. It is autumn. And if, as she begs you to, you stare deeply enough into her eyes during these moments, you will return from your walk to find that your hand has tightened its grip so firmly around hers.




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