: Brooklyn Feast or Famine :

an excerpt by Jason Leahey


Winters used to be cold in New York.  You could smell the snow coming by mid-afternoon.  And when the trains let all the eight-to-sixers out into Brooklyn it would be falling in wet drops that bent the lights of the halal chicken joints and the red-yellow-green stoplights and the endless bodegas with their orange incandescents bleeding from between the cigarette ads and malt liquor ads and knock-you-in-the-teeth energy drink ads that wallpapered their windows.  Doors released shadows hunched into thick hoodies or raincoats who ran over the gushy sidewalks for the busses, aching brakes carried through the aqua dark.  So beautiful, the world then, that you’d become acutely aware of Life and you yourself in it, so much simple Being that we all must have been a work of art in some place we couldn’t know we lived, the way you became acutely aware that the diminutions we know are more than those we understand.  The enumeration of the colors in all the halal grocers and splashes from busses’ sighing hydraulics, that enumeration is doomed to be incomplete, and so maybe the attempt is a work of art all itself.  The attempt matters.  This is what I tell myself, what I tell myself for comfort.

It was one of those work-of-art nights that I met Keeno Buckley.  I’d finished my dinner, fed the turtles, then walked toward Fort Green beneath the neighborhood’s canopy of trees, Brooklyn an Old New England storybook after the snowfall and before the morning traffic grayed it.  At the corner of Washington and Green was a playground I liked in particular, a cement anteater next to its jungle gym an unforgiving pummel horse.  I climbed through the hole someone had cut in the chainlink fence so I could leave the first footprints in the new snow, sat on a bench to soak up the rare quiet.  This was two winters before the city tore down our block and ran out of money before they could build over it.