To be settled in Brooklyn once again comes as a surprising relief. With two former students (city neophytes) in tow, I made a return pilgrimage to Poets House today, not long after having strolled through much of SoHo and a bit of Little Italy. I continue to be amazed that I did not know this lovely and serene place before, though how or when I would have heard about it, I'm not sure. What I do know is that if I were going to be in the city for an extended amount of time, I'd be spending some considerable amount of it at those tables, with those volumes.
I have long had a problem with traveling to cities which have many bookstores; when I was still visiting Chicago on a fairly regular basis, I would come home (on the train, on the plane) with stacks of used books (one of which actually birthed my dissertation project; one never knows where the spark will be). My suitcase would generally be almost too heavy to lift. Sometimes it was bad enough that I would pack a separate box of books and carry *that* on the plane, or check it through to wherever I was returning to. This trip's endgame is going to involve some sleight of hand in the packing department, I fear, as I continue my late summer project of amassing things related to the newest dimension of my vocation.
On the way home from Manhattan this afternoon, I finally broke down and did the thing I've always wanted to do but have always felt too dorky to try: taking some pictures from the Manhattan Bridge. It's a tricky thing to try: the bridge's girders intervene between your camera and the lower Manhattan skyline in an inconvenient way, and it's more difficult than you might think to get the Brooklyn Bridge to resolve itself against that skyline. The greatest difficulty, though, lies in the fact that the trains' windows are all in such rough shape that one can only see the city as through a glass, darkly. Or perhaps through a glass, scratchily. But if you were to put these two pictures together, you would have something like the expanse of the Brooklyn Bridge, as it appeared late this cool, overcast afternoon.
Whitman might have said it best (though what "it" is, I can't tell you), in his "Song of Joys" (from which I copied lines at, you guessed it, Poets House this afternoon):
O to sail to sea in a ship!Need I say more?
To leave this steady unendurable land,
To leave the tiresome sameness of the streets, the sidewalks and theh ouses,
To leave you O you solid motionless land, entering a ship,
To sail and sail and sail!
O to have life henceforth a poem of new joys!
To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on!
To bea sailor of the world bound for all ports,
A ship itself, (see indeed these sails I spread to the sun and air,)
A swift and swelling ship full of rich words, full of joys.