I. A Day in the Life
"Buffalo is a train under my window several times a day. It won't scare,
though I don't feed it. It goes away and comes back. I live on memory."
With erratic gestures a woman interviewing for a clerical position
describes the making of a documentary about seagulls. Outside the factory
window behind her a sudden gull-colored fog scuds off the lake, called in by
her hands that fly around her like starlings on strings. Her interviewer
flinches, thinking security.
A block away, a violin from unlit apartment 6: shades down, darker
than night in there, the sound stiffening bristles on the next-door dog. And
then, another harmonic, the dented brass of an elephant: the zoo, behind the
Frank Lloyd Wright house and beside the green bocce fields with yellow
plastic benches lit by Niagara Mohawk Power.
On a sinking sidewalk edging the professor's house no winter snow,
but 34 losing Lotto tickets, silver and green. The people watch hockey, eat
beef. "Buffalo: City on the Edge, on display through April." Then what?
A purple manual typewriter at the party, balanced on the mantel over
the cold fireplace, a block from the whores on Cottage, and the Austrian poet
discussing Wittgenstein's aversion to window screens. Mingus was here and
here and here, carrying his suitcase full of arrows. Also Mark Twain, Sonny
Rollins, Lukas Foss, Archie Shepp, Charles Burchfield, and a list like
history. Robert Creeley is here and here and here, living in a firehouse,
running from old fires to new fuel. A museum team trails him, collecting his
3. Real Estate
In the house for sale, a 104-year-old photograph; the house, hitching
post outside, nothing else for miles except a stone curb for the dirt street.
The blood in the snow on the porch is vinyl flowers. Stained glass under
plastic. Doors walled up, blocked, covered with floral wallpaper, fading:
"Build to suit, North Buffalo."
The African neighbor steeps the house in classical music from big
black speakers. In her son's room a hockey stick, in the daughter's, a
cornet, missing a valve. In the sunroom a painting of Charleston, South
"City of No Illusions." City of Noh Illusions. In the northwest at
the community clinic, the Black Rock pediatricians and ob-gyns plan a reading
program for the waiting room, vaccination with literacy. Pregnant teens
between appointments shyly watch the female doctors work, listen. The
foreign-owned factory next door invited for a meeting can't find the clinic,
circles in the corporate helicopter, sweeping the ground with searchlights.
Finally, they give up, write off the aviation fuel as community outreach.
Four strangers help another make the right bus stop. Friendly, quiet
drivers, the cabbie said. He shook his shaved head at the headline: "Arab
Deli Workers Run Risk of Death in Pursuing American Dream." After the
shooting and the keloid revealed for a reporter, he runs into the robber,
both visiting friends in jail. " 'How come you're walking, how come you're
not dead?' He said he'd come back and kill me. All I could say was, 'Okay,
The State University of New York at Buffalo Distinguished Speaker
Series, Sponsored By Don Davis Auto World, Presents Carol Burnett.
7. Local Color
Yeah, time is on your side, the woman said, passing on the street
through the air fogged with bread from Kaufmann's. It's the feast of Saint
Joseph, so buy Joe bread to eat with the drunk postal clerk in the laundromat
at Central Park Plaza who says, I cared too much about my girlfriend to keep
sleeping with this married woman. So I go to her and say, I can't do this
anymore, we have to stop seeing each other, and she says, okay, how much you
want to leave me alone, and I said, okay, and she gave me $500. In the
window at which his hands fold, a truck trembles in drifts, unable to move.
Paul the Sicilian barber offers coffee in his 600-pound chair.
Through the window his pole whirls in snow. He closes early.
At Amigone Funeral Home the half-mast flag, after the bagpipe played
the officer to sleep at Forest Lawn, after the memorial at the arena in which
"Aladdin on Ice" arrives tonight.
Off Main two women talk but not to each other; holding rosaries for
the Women's Clinic, beads black and shiny as olives, black as the eye of the
one cop in the fur hat flat at the door in the raw gin of wind off the lake,
beside the humming laundry, which keeps on cleaning 24/7.
A boom across Erie saves vacation docks from rogue floes, and
strangles spring every year, the trapped ice keeping the city chilled like a
Downtown, the Guaranty Building of Louis Sullivan, dark red Chicago
muscled arches and sandstone, and the Gold Dome bank building, like a mosque,
and Delaware Avenue mansions now housing charities to which the original
owners flung crumbs. City in 1928 home to more millionaires than any other
in America — tonight, the Canadian Consulate invites you to Canadian jazz at
the Calumet Cafe, on Chippewa Street, near the Niagara, which flows north,
toward Ontario, a river in which a Chinese man splashes near the bridge
today, washing in ice.
Lenten Fish Fry, Every Night Till Nine: a yellow sign on wheels,
parked on the narrow green lawn like a tongue from the gray chapel door. Now
April hovers over the city like a bright kite — and two rabbits this Friday
night, little systems kinked between motion and emotion, tremble until some
trigger flicks and they spin off into the warm church grass, unmowed, its
ragged bushes blooming in the dark.
e. f. taylor jr.