A Crooked Lullaby

In the underworlds of the city people tell a story, the marks of ever land can be seen across their skin, knuckles to collar bones. Sure one speaks of Jesus, that capital G sorta god. Another talks about Anansi, this other of Loki. Some speak of Raven or Coyote.

But all talk about the Lantern Man. He had another name once, but all tongues have forgotten the shape of it, that’s how old he is, and he’s not up there looking down, he’s all around.

Lantern Man makes the light because Lantern Man makes the shadows.

Blows a good thought for all the scoundrels into the box of his lantern, hangs it on a chain and watches it burn. When the good thought runs out, when the lantern goes dark, somebody gets four stone walls or the gallows. Lantern Man puts down his pipe and gets another good thought going, these days it takes a while, and blows it to light.

They say when the Lantern Man runs out of good thoughts is when the world ends, when there won’t be a single shadow left.

So next time you find yourself in darkness, think about all that it protects, and send a good thought out there for the Lantern Man.

One day you might need someplace to hide.

Now go to sleep.

Photo Credit: Fred Morley/Stringer

An eerie scene in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, where a lantern helps to illuminate the way through a dense fog, 1934

longform:

On the appearance of an angel.

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To date my most-loved among gabriel garcía márquez’s fictions. If you’ve not read it…
That Stubborn Plank

The skies above the city had wept the streets into a swamp.

People smoked twice as much to clean the smell of the rot and damp from their nostrils, to have something that burned and was dry. They carried their cigarettes under their hats. Wagon wheels rusted, horses hooves were cleaned and dried with extra care, still many came up lame with cramps and fungus, hair and flesh soft as if stewed. For those forced to walk, which was much of the city, there were walkways. Unemployed men took a city wage to maintain and install them and blacksmiths made fortunes in nails. Artists joked that nobody bought their work anymore because who could afford to hang paintings?

Martin had been unemployed, played at laborer, at boxer and thief.

Now he built and kept up cheap and tiny bridges. 

There was one stubborn plank that refused to sit right, often falling into the water. Martin told people forced to wait that he had no idea why that infernal board would not listen to the nails he put through it.

There. It is fixed. Good day, sir, madam, miss.

She may have been a courtesan, traveling home at those hours. Perhaps she was a rich man’s mistress or a wealthy eccentric’s daughter who insisted on walking because it was what the people were forced to do. He would see her a few blocks away, tottering on the boards under that magnificent hat, and hop down from his dry perch and wade to the stubborn board. He’d look around for witnesses before he gave it a sharp rap with his hammer, knocking it into the water.

She waited while Martin hammered and thought of something to say. He looked at his rough hands and wondered if they would scrape the smooth skin of her thighs, her neck. He wanted to say good morning, but remembered the persistant rot and itch of his skin below his knees, between his toes. 

Thank you, sir, she would say as he fixed the plank. He could only tip his hat in answer.

Martin prayed for courage. He prayed for rain.

Credit: Crue de la Seine. Paris, janvier 1910, Roger-Viollet

That Stubborn Plank

The skies above the city had wept the streets into a swamp.

People smoked twice as much to clean the smell of the rot and damp from their nostrils, to have something that burned and was dry. They carried their cigarettes under their hats. Wagon wheels rusted, horses hooves were cleaned and dried with extra care, still many came up lame with cramps and fungus, hair and flesh soft as if stewed. For those forced to walk, which was much of the city, there were walkways. Unemployed men took a city wage to maintain and install them and blacksmiths made fortunes in nails. Artists joked that nobody bought their work anymore because who could afford to hang paintings?

Martin had been unemployed, played at laborer, at boxer and thief.

Now he built and kept up cheap and tiny bridges.

There was one stubborn plank that refused to sit right, often falling into the water. Martin told people forced to wait that he had no idea why that infernal board would not listen to the nails he put through it.

There. It is fixed. Good day, sir, madam, miss.

She may have been a courtesan, traveling home at those hours. Perhaps she was a rich man’s mistress or a wealthy eccentric’s daughter who insisted on walking because it was what the people were forced to do. He would see her a few blocks away, tottering on the boards under that magnificent hat, and hop down from his dry perch and wade to the stubborn board. He’d look around for witnesses before he gave it a sharp rap with his hammer, knocking it into the water.

She waited while Martin hammered and thought of something to say. He looked at his rough hands and wondered if they would scrape the smooth skin of her thighs, her neck. He wanted to say good morning, but remembered the persistant rot and itch of his skin below his knees, between his toes.

Thank you, sir, she would say as he fixed the plank. He could only tip his hat in answer.

Martin prayed for courage. He prayed for rain.


Credit: Crue de la Seine. Paris, janvier 1910, Roger-Viollet

fuckyeahexistentialism:

"On the shelves were the books bound in a cardboard-like material, pale, like tanned human skin, and the manuscripts were intact. In spite of the room’s having been shut up for many years, the air seemed fresher than in the rest of the house. Everything was so recent that several weeks later, when Úrsula went into the room with a pail of water and a brush to wash the floor, there was nothing for her to do. Aureliano Segundo was deep in the reading of a book. Although it had no cover and the title did not appear anywhere, the boy enjoyed the story of a woman who sat at a table and ate nothing but kernels of rice, which she picked up with a pin, and the story of the fisherman who borrowed a weight for his net from a neighbor and when he gave him a fish in payment later it had a diamond in its stomach, and the one about the lamp that fulfilled wishes and about flying carpets. Surprised, he asked Úrsula if all that was true and she answered him that it was, that many years ago the gypsies had brought magic lamps and flying mats to Macondo.

“What’s happening,” she sighed, “is that the world is slowly coming to an end and those things don’t come here any more.””

Gabriel García Márquez

(via una-lady-italiana)

In the past New York City has only made of herself a painted whore when it suited her, and always with a tinge of elegance, whether she cloaked herself in moonlight and diamonds, or wore a gown of newspapers salvaged from the gutter.

It’s always been on her terms. She has only ever sold herself.

Today I heard the city’s shot-callers speak in full volume.

“Your city is a product, it is a commodity packaged and ready for sale.”

Each generation hears the death knell of the world they knew during their lifetime.

This subway car was mine.

I remember when they were covered in graffiti, I remember when they were truly scary places to be.

In truth I don’t miss the fear, even though an edge isn’t a bad thing.

But I miss New York, and I haven’t even left.

Say it ain’t so, darlin. Please come back to me.