Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Milestone Park

Milestone Park             \1
Two lovers sit upon a wooden bench.
They cuddle, disengage – and snuggle more.
But then the man takes out his smart-phone and
they both appear, by what’s within, entranced.
And right by them, an older person sits
and reads his book – as with this toothless gums
he masticates the soft white bread he pulls
from deep within a bag that’s by his side.
And both of these – the lovers and the one
who quietly reads – enjoy the light and shade
that dapples now the urban “park”, where these
and others sit or stroll, in slanting sun…
But here’s a woman, far in years advanced,
who leans upon a “walker”, seeking what
I had at first supposed was just a seat,
until she rummaged in a garbage bin…
From China, she appears to be and she
confirms to what we’ve long been witnessing –
that discontent with sitting idly and
that urge to work – and earn – that drives her “race”.   \2
But here are others, speaking Russian, who
may hail from Europe or from Asia’s steppes –
and they are gathered by a game of chess,               \3
whose moves are much as ancient Indians played…
And here are Latins, Jews and Arabs and
so many others from the distant lands –
and here, in Brooklyn, as the sun declines,
they sit or walk in peace, and speak their tongues.

It’s time for me to leave.  The western sun
is warm upon my neck as I rise up.
I turn and gather up my notebook, bag –
and look around this wondrous urban “park”.

2014 July 30th, Wed., 6:30 pm
Milestone Park 
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

1.  Milestone Park is a paved public area, rather squalid,
     on one side of 18th Ave, between 83rd & 84th Streets
     in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn.  This
     “park” has a fenced children’s playground at one end.
     The rest of the area is unfenced, and has some trees,
     tables and benches. That is where I sat and wrote this.

2.  Bottles and soda cans marked for recycling fetch five
     cents each at recycling centers.  So twenty such yield
     a dollar of income for those folk, mostly older Chinese
     women, who walk the streets all day, gathering these
     items from garbage bins and bags.

3.   After I had written my description of the goings-on in
      the park in my notebook, I decided to walk around the
      city “park” and, among other things, see, for my increasingly
      short-sighted self, what that group of “Russian speakers”
      and other such groups were really doing. I found seven
      such groups, each gathered around a game, with a few
      core players in each case and others watching silently or
      acting as cheerleaders and advisers.
      Only one of these groups was, indeed, made up of Russian-
      -speakers.  These were the only ones playing chess.  Four
      of the groups had people speaking various dialects of
      Chinese.  There was one small group of Vietnamese and
      another of Albanians. 
       All of the participants were either middle-aged or elderly.
        Most of the Chinese women were busy at cards, with
        dollars being slapped down on the tables as incentive. 
        Two groups of Chinese men were focused on the slow,
        deliberate moves of what appeared to be the schematically
        simple but mentally complex game known in Japan as “Go”. 
        The Albanians were playing, on a checker-board, a game
        that had Scrabble-like racks and pieces, but with symbols
        instead of letters.  They told me the name of their game,
        but I have forgotten it.

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