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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?

2. Art

     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 ashes.

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 Carolina.

4. Economy

     "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.

5. Politics

     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, man.' "

6. Education

     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.

8. Religion

     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.

9. History

     A boom across Erie saves vacation docks from rogue floes, and strangles spring every year, the trapped ice keeping the city chilled like a market mackerel.
     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.

10. Forecast

     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.