I crossed today the river and I stood on Mammon’s isle,
On this October afternoon, as leaves were coming down...
And as it was a Saturday, I dallied there a while,
Remembering the times when I had time to walk and smile...
From the canyons of Manhattan, I saw the spires afar
That swam in western sunlight, with winter drawing near.
The autumn’s winds were blowing, as I ambled to the park.
I shivered as the leaves do. It would soon be growing dark.
In the alleys of the boroughs, where the litter drifts like leaves,
I had wandered, as a worker, for a lifetime, so it seemed…
And the parks had been a refuge, for the ones who were like me,
Who were weary of the hustle and were neither brave nor free.
The park in which I settled was a sorry city thing,
But with trees along its margins and a tattered plastic green.
In that park, I watched the soccer, as the ball went to and fro,
And I thought of all my autumns – and the plays I’d seen before…
They were drawn from all the nations – all those players in the park.
And they trapped and kicked the leather, as they practiced for the game.
Then a referee (southern English) separated reds and whites.
And the players, friends and strangers, did their simple pre-game rites.
So hands were quickly shaken, with names and smiles exchanged.
They didn’t know each other – but they surely knew the game.
And this was quickly obvious, as the goals were deftly scored.
They’d sized up one another, and all else was now ignored.
I wrote my muse's verses, as I sat and watched the game.
And I blessed the ones who’d put in wooden benches, long ago.
The reds were doing better, till the whites reversed defeat.
The light grew soft and golden, as the battle gathered heat.
The beauty of a pastime – of a sport, as soccer is,
Is it doesn’t really matter, where you’re from or how you speak.
What matters is the playing – the enjoyment of the game.
And a win may be a glory. But a loss is not a shame.
And so it is with soccer, by “white” colonials spread –
Across the widest oceans – to “yellows”, blacks and browns.
And so it with cricket and other games we play,
As season follows season – and schoolmates’ heads turn gray…
But the players here were young ones. And mostly, they were men.
But women too were playing. There were natives and the rest –
From Asia and from Europe, from the “new world” and the “old” –
From warmest parts of Africa – but here in New York’s cold.
The reds at end were rounded. They gathered, by a bench.
The whites – they went on playing – and the blacks were now their foes.
The colors were of jerseys – and not of human skin.
And the play was not for commerce, and was mostly free of sin.
The whites in turn retreated. Now blacks and reds would joust.
So tribes had once competed – and yet remained on terms.
But floodlights now were glaring. They sky was drained of light.
‘Twas time to head on homewards, to dine at home at night.
And so I’ll end my stanzas and pack my notebook soon.
I’ll walk then to the station and take the D-train home.
I’ll leave the play to players, to play in blinding light.
The autumn day has ended. Why take away from night?
I’ll walk towards the station, trying not to step on leaves –
And I’ll hear the words of nations from across the heaving seas.
I’ll find a place to pee in, as the ride to home is long.
Let’s hope the stalls are open, as that’s where our pees belong…
And as I travel homewards, I’ll think of what I’ve seen –
Of those enthused with soccer, who chase and kick the ball –
And those like me who wonder – at them and at the spires
That rise above Manhattan – as humankind aspires.
2014 October 4th, Sat. 6:40 pm by Grand St. & Christie St., Chinatown, Manhattan (some additions made October 5th, Sun. morning, at home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn)
And as I neared the station, with its urine-stench in mind,
I glanced towards the playground – and upwards at the sky.
A quarter-moon was floating, above the white-limbed trees,
Whose remnant leaves were waving, in the chill October breeze.
The sky was of a color that I cannot quite describe.
It was blue at very deepest – it was dark and yet aglow.
It was beauty, like a gemstone, like the trees and like the moon.
In the midst of urban squalor, it was beauty, none too soon…
I paused for just a second, amidst the human stream,
But now my mind was smiling, as I descended down –
Down into the subway, to the cavern underground,
Where the D-train came with rumbling and much attendant sound.
And then, across the river, on the old Manhattan bridge,
With views of sky and river, and the towers of the city –
Then down again, to Brooklyn, to the tunnel deep below –
And there I sit and scribble, as I homewards, homewards go.
I’d gone to see the doctor, for the wife and for myself –
A sacred yearly ritual. So I’d schlepped across the bridge
And I’d trod on Mammon’s island, and I’d looked upon its spires
And I’d seen the pilgrims playing, in the manner that inspires.
2014 October 4th, Sat., 7:34 pm below western Brooklyn, approaching the 36th St. station (some additions made October 5th, Sun. morning at home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn)