Monthly Archives: February 2013

A walk interrupted

I was returning from a walk with my dog and along the way, I noticed a crowd on the other side of the street. Many smartphones were visible, and it became apparent to me that something was going on on the sidewalk that was being filmed. From across the street, it was hard to tell what that was. At a distance from the crowd, a flock of pigeons descended to eat rice thrown on the sidewalk. From where I was, I saw what appeared to be a wild animal in distress, surrounded by curious onlookers. It seemed to me quite callous that the crowd was doing nothing to relieve the animal’s distress, but instead filming it for its apparent novelty value. I hurried across the street with my dog to see what I could do to help the animal.
In the middle of the sidewalk was a hawk, unmoving, its legs apparently stuck on a blackish block beneath. Was this someone’s idea of sport, I wondered. Then the block moved – it wasn’t a block, but a pigeon that the hawk was holding in its talons. The pigeon was still alive and struggling to escape, but the hawk kept it down. I was struck by the beauty of nature on its own. As people drew closer to film this, the hawk, holding on to the pigeon, flew up just enough to clear and land on the other side of a fence bordering the sidewalk. The crowd closed in on the fence to look at the spectacle. I stayed where I was because I did not want to violate the hawk’s space. I noticed my ego giving itself a pat on the back for my apparent compassion: unlike the others there, I’m respecting the hawk’s space. Perhaps the more respectful thing to do would be to leave so that there was one less person interrupting the hawk from completing what it needed to do with the pigeon.
The hawk looked alarmed and on alert. It appeared to be torn between trying to restrain the still alive pigeon and guarding its prey from the curious, but perhaps, from its perspective, threatening crowd. A teenager called to her boyfriend to come watch because the hawk was killing the poor bird. Further up on the sidewalk, the flock of pigeons seemed undisturbed from the events here and continued with their periodic descent and ascent, as they followed a man anointing the ground with rice. The pigeon in the hawk’s grasp struggled again, causing the hawk to adjust its balance and turn around. That was my cue to leave. The longer the crowd is here, including me, the longer the hawk will be guarding its prey instead of tearing its flesh and putting an end to the struggle. I realized that a scene such as this is fascinating because, much like the other gawkers and observers in the crowd, I too, am a creature of the city. Maybe if I lived in the country, nature in its undistilled form would not be so shockingly beautiful in a compelling way, and instead beautiful without the allure of novelty. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know what happened to the hawk or the pigeon.
On my way home with my dog and my thoughts, I was reminded of an incident a few years ago, when my dog caught a squirrel and proceeded to shake it vigorously in her mouth, but interrupted by my shouts to stop, relented for a few seconds to look up, just long enough for the shocked but still alive squirrel to jump out of her mouth and run up the nearest tree. I don’t know what happened to that squirrel, but my dog was very confused by what I did.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

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interlude

I looked in the mirror for signs of goodness,
that elusive quality that priests,
politicians and ex-wives ask for
as they are about to cast you
into eternal damnation.
I found nothing,
just a tired outline
of a cold, shivering soul
trembling in a corner,
trying hard to eviscerate himself
so he could be redeemed in the eyes
of holy gangs
looking for devotees.
So I smashed the mirror.
And smiled.

Later, I was booked for mirror-smashing,
a cardinal sin,
and sent into exile,
where I found myself.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Don’t ask me why – Ryan’s story

I am late for work. I’m often late for work – I’m at a job I don’t like and do not feel at all motivated to get there. But money and the lack of it has taught me that showing up helps.There’s an onion there by the side of the road where the street meets the sidewalk. A big, red onion. I don’t know what it’s doing there, but it’s there. It brings back memories. Some days all I see is memories.
I hurry to the subway, a tall blonde woman blocking my urgent passage as she finds it necessary to walk slowly down the stairs reading her newspaper. Making my way down the platform, I see a couple – part of a pretty woman’s face and a bearded man in an overcoat. He looks plain and quite boring, and the woman is young, ripe and full of promise. I wonder what she sees in him and I notice her alive eyes as she looks at him.
The train arrives and soon I will be at the publishing job I no longer care for, editing bestsellers that have no pulse, having thoughtful discussions with people who say a lot and a lot of nothing. The stop before mine, a woman gets in, tight jeans, surgery or Botox enhanced lips and more product on her head than hair. She is pouty and looks like she has to spend a good amount of time every morning to look that way. Glamorous. She does nothing for me, though several of the men in the car are quite taken with her tight, figure hugging jeans. I am not. She’s not my type. Which makes me think of my type. I don’t have a type. It feels like going to the grocery store and pointing to the brand of coffee or ice cream that you like and crave. How about calmness and serenity, the opposite of what I’ve been most of my life. How about a smile, a laugh, carefree abandon, living for the now, not worrying about tomorrow. Who gets easily excited about little things, like snails on a plant in a concrete bed, or grasshoppers walking lumberingly across a grassless field in early spring. And musically and artistically talented or curious. But wrapped within a pleasing exterior, with gentle eyes, the windows. Outside of the pleasing exterior, my type is beginning to sound a lot like me. Narcissus, are you there?

The work day is over, I leave the office behind and head to NYU, where a friend has invited me to a film screening. The movie is about a straight woman who decides to have a baby with a dear friend who is gay. Not a gay movie, but a comedy about connection. I don’t find it very funny, but I connect with it.
The movie is done, I part with my friend, and head to Union Square to take the train home. There’s a homeless man at the bottom of the stairs, asking people in a raspy, hoarse voice to spare some change. I don’t look up as I continue forward, but there’s something in his voice. I turn around and look at him. He is old and wrinkled and his clothes are tattered. He looks helpless. My emotional armor of ignoring yet another homeless person is broken. My resolution is gone – to give homeless people food but not money because they might spend the money on drugs or alcohol. In this moment, the armor of heartlessness and judgement is gone, the armor that is in place to protect me from the helplessness that comes with letting in the pain of another and not being able to permanently improve that person’s life. In this moment, all I can do is try to help ease this man’s suffering, for this moment. Further down, I see another homeless man, he also asks for change. I hurry on, thinking how many can I help, but I am compelled to stop and give him a dollar. I feel sad that there are so many faceless, unseen people in the city, in all cities I’ve visited. I feel. I walk. I sit on the train. I am one among many. Gone is Narcissus. Now is wonder. How does it all happen? What does it all add up to? What is the meaning of life – a question that has senselessly plagued me most of my life, is starkly irrelevant in this moment. To be kind, to see, to reach out to another, is all I can do, to give, to observe, to see. To be. To be. To be.
Later, I think of the old man with the hoarse, raspy voice. What’s his story? How did he come to be there? Does he have a family, a brother, a sister, children? Did he live somewhere at one point in time? Did he or does he have a partner? What does he do at night? It’s cold outside, bitterly cold. Who will love this man? Who will hold him at night? What does he feel inside? I am sad that I cannot be god-like and completely take away his suffering. I am sad for I feel his suffering, no matter how he came about it. In this moment, all I can do is wish for his happiness. And if the universe and the flow of energy works in such a way, then let me go through obstacles if that will help ease his suffering. There’s sadness in my heart, and warmth and compassion within.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Delilah’s song

I loved you from the start,
I mourn that we’re apart,
the day you left
I was bereft,
there’s sorrow in my heart.

Your loving way once held me,
your anger it repelled me,
your need to kill
my people till
they were no more unspelled me.

So on that night we showered,
your plans I overpowered,
to kill my kind,
so unrefined,
I am a hero, not a coward.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Song of Samson

My hair was longer,
my feet were stronger,
I’m now completely blind;
she fed me with
her four leaf clover,
she maimed me while I dined.

She dazzled me with
form and soothing
touch that eased my mind,
and then she showered
my disempowered
life with lips unkind.

So now I’ll find the
love that frees me;
it’s waiting deep inside
for me to reach out,
to call its name out,
within I’ll find my bride.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.