the spirits of the places
I move through
appear as birds–
residents of sidewalks,
street trees, roofs, parks–
the spirits of the places
stopping me, waiting for me
to acknowledge them as
I move through
thinking of someone I’ve lost–
as if they had suddenly
appeared as a bird
It would be very unusual to spot a tiger shrike in New York City, as they reside in wooded habitats in eastern Asia, and are quite shy. But if you did, that would be the male with the mask. The female has more more subtle coloring, which makes the eye appear larger.
Like all shrikes, they used their sharp hooked beaks to impale their prey–insects, small birds, lizards, rodents. They are not considered threatened, although populations are declining.
My cascade is a (belated) response to Brendan’s discussion at earthweal about spirits of place. I’ve felt spirits in certain of my residences, although I haven’t stayed in many places long enough to establish a relationship. But everywhere I go in the city I find birds.
Birds are considered in many cultures to be a bridge between the human and spirit worlds. I know I’m not the only person who has wondered if someone I’m missing sometimes visits me in the form of a bird.
gan in friendship,
narrowing the spaces between
in methodic madness–
shared creations expanding from
working in parallel–
threaded layered multiplied back
more to explore–
branching like trees and scattering
to inspire each
other, to our surprise
we found ourselves weaving a web–
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”
(this quote is the first thing I posted)
Nina and I began our blog on May 6, 2014, as a way to show each other the art we were doing. We had both let our creativity languish and were hoping to inspire each other to produce more. We made the above two combined logos–the top one merging art from each of us in the center, and our avatar which contained a drawing each of us had done of the other from the 1970s, when we met, working as designers in a textile company.
the news is full of sorrow
not should have been–two years
On May 7, I received my firsts “likes” for the above post. I didn’t have a clue…where did that come from? When Nina told me we had acquired followers I was mystified. Two of those first likes came from blogs I still interact with–Robert Okaji, and Outside Authority.
In the beginning I mostly posted drawings and old art, with the occasional 17 syllable poem. I got my first comment from someone other than Nina on May 30, for my first Beach I Ching post. I started writing more poetry in 2016. For the first few years Nina and I posted almost every day, and we did a number of collaborations.
Above is one of our collaborations with the Oracle.
Life has tossed us around a bit in the past few years. I’m posting less and doing some of my art/poetry at Kblog now, but you can still find me here for my monthly circle/grid, Draw a Bird Day, and Thursday Doors, with The Kick-About, and a few other things thrown in from time to time. Nina and I hope to get back to collaborations too.
I would not be doing the art or writing I’m doing today without this community. I’ve learned and been given so much–thank you, thank you, thank you! for your continued support .
between, doors open
play of pink
mixed with marigold—thresholds
inviting blue skies
A shadorma for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Color Poetry writing prompt and Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors 2022 Writing Challenge. For today, I’ve chosen these colorful doors from Susan Kelly. You can see photos of all the doors available to write about here.
Here’s some colorful doors I saw recently at PS 84, on West 92nd Street.
And some blossoms in Riverside Park.
we mark time
with numbers, naming
and then divided—each month
we begin again,
of days in
in fact they overlap—clouds,
sun, showers, flowers
A small shadorma chain for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday theme of beginnings and endings, picked by Yvette M. Calleiro. I meant to do something completely different with the circles of flowers I cut out, and perhaps I’ll explore that idea later. I got distracted with layering them in different ways.
When I was out walking yesterday I discovered a community garden on West 90th Street–full of tulips. I’ll be visiting it again, to see what’s in bloom in the coming months.
balconies they call
two voices linger on a
midsummer night’s dream
247, 248, and 249 Central Park West have a number of Juliet balconies, as the NYC real estate market has labeled any small terrace outside an upper floor window or door on which you can stand. Once there were 6 brownstones on the block between 84th and 85th street.
The entrance to 247 is the simplest. The original six homes were designed in the late 1800s by architect Edward Angell in a variety of styles, each with its own facade. When builder Sam Minskoff proposed demolishing all six in 1925 to build a two-tower apartment building, the owner of 247, architect W. Gedney Beatty, refused to sell. This saved not only his house, but 248 and 249 as well. They were landmarked in 1988, and so can not be demolished for any future development.
248 has a variety of stonework that includes owls on the side and what appear to be griffins over the door. Each side of the door surround is different. This house sold for $26 million in 2022–it has a lap pool, a landscaped rooftop garden, and 4 Juliet balconies.
The front gate is also quite beautiful.
249, the corner house, was divided into apartments in 1957. A lot of the facade ornamentation was removed and the house was painted white. After the Landmarks designation, because of building violations, the owner was forced to strip off the paint and restore the masonry. I wonder if the door guardian in the triangle is a restoration, or remained to be uncovered at that time. I remember the building being worked on for many months.
249 sold for 17.5 million in 2013 and again spent many years being renovated and turned back into a single home.
It too has a lovely front gate.
And beautiful ironwork on the side entrance.
Edward Angell designed many homes on the Upper West Side, and I hope to visit and photograph more of them.
My poem was written for Ingrid at dVerse, who proposed a celebration of Shakespeare. What better than a Juliet balcony?
And, as always, find more doors with host Dan Antion, here.
Kiss—he still longed for
her smile, touch–
he thought it
lost, but it surfaced, wistful,
as a song of love
Long a musical fixture in Central Park, the Naumburg Bandshell was the site of John Lennon’s eulogy in 1980.
We were much much younger then…
In 1904 philanthropist Elkan Naumburg began funding free symphonic concerts in Central Park with picnics and waltzing under the stars. They were so popular that the crowds grew too large for the space; the original cast iron pagoda bandshell was razed, the grounds were paved over, and Naumburg’s nephew, William, designed a new limestone bandshell. It was completed in 1923, with 10,000 attending the symphonic dedication.
I was wandering around the park recently (actually on my way to an appointment on the East Side, but I got distracted) when I found myself in front of the bandshell. It looked forlorn without any performers on this grey windy day. A few other people stopped to take photos then went on their way.
The Bandshell has a rich history, including performances by Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and the Grateful Dead, as well as numerous orchestral and operatic groups. Martin Luther King Jr and Fidel Castro both gave speeches here. It was nearly razed in 1992 after years of vandalism and neglect, but preservationists, spearheaded by Naumburg’s grandson, won a court battle to save it. Renovation was delayed by the city until 2003, when the Central Park Conservancy raised funds to restore it.
Summerstage began its free concerts here in 1986. Because the park was considered so unsafe at that time, the concerts were only given during the day. The large crowds resulting from its popularity caused it to relocate to Rumsey Playfield in 1990, where it remains. Sun Ra and his Arkestra and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were two of the original acts that performed.
My John Lennon-inspired shadorma is for Merril’s prompt at dVerse, where she has given us a selection of English rose names to use in our verse. I chose Julia’s Kiss. John said when he wrote his song he was thinking not only of his mother, Julia, but his wife, Yoko. Love is complex.
You can read more about the Naumburg Bandshell here and the gathering for John Lennon here. I unknowingly lived for a couple years right down the street from John and Yoko in the Village, before they moved into the Dakota, and once saw John in the subway, running to catch a train uptown.
And, as always, there are always more doors to see on Thursday Doors. Visit host Dan Antion here.
Mirrored and split apart by space and time–
the architecture of a larger age
rises above instead of seeking rhyme.
Waves of the future on a bigger stage
eliminate most ornament–design
for residents desiring to upgrade.
No need for detail, guardians of stone–
clean lines, refinement, now adorn their homes.
I was walking along West End Avenue when I spotted some window guardians on a brownstone and took a few photos–then right down the street there was a mirror image house. This made me curious. Had it always been this way? Now there was a large mostly brick apartment building in between.
A little research showed me that yes, the block had once been all brownstones. Here’s what I found on Landmarks West: These two noncontiguous brownstone fronted rowhouses, each twenty feet wide, are four stories in height above raised basements and were designed as mirror images.
They go on: The houses at Nos. 605 and 615 West End Avenue are survivors of a ten house row which originally extended from No. 601 to No. 619. Designed by Thom & Wilson, this row was built between January and October of 1888 for Bernard Wilson, principal in the architectural firm. The row occupied the entire western block front of West End Avenue between West 89th and West 90th Streets and included large houses at the corners. The row was first broken in 1916 when Nos. 601 and 603 were demolished for a twelve story apartment building, again in 1925 when Nos. 607 to 613 were demolished for a sixteen story apartment building, and again when Nos. 617 and 619 were demolished for a fifteen story apartment building.
I do admire the way Rosario Candela, the architect of many apartment buildings in NYC, designed the larger building so that the bottom part echoed the lines of the two surrounding brownstones. I could not find a photo of the street as it originally was, but I bet there were more guardians to be found on those houses.
The brownstones have been slightly altered over the years, so they are not exactly alike now. But they still have their window guardians. This one, at 607 West End Avenue, is evidently still a private home.
615 West End Avenue is a rental–in fact the upper triplex is for rent right now for a mere $16,000/month. If you want to see the listing, and take a virtual tour, you can find it on Streeteasy, here.
I myself love to look at real estate listings. There’s nothing for sale right now in the larger building, but here’s the listing for the most recent sale if you’d like to see what the apartments are like. This is considered an aspirational-size apartment for all New Yorkers–“7 rooms”–most people occupy much smaller (and darker) spaces.
My poem is in the ottava rima form, for Muri’s April Scavenger Hunt.
And you can find more Thursday Doors at host Dan Antion’s site, here.
My poem “Stop War” is included in this international collection of poetry, just published.
From award-winning multi-published poet laureates, to emerging poets exploring words for the very first time; from university professors, actors, psychologists, artists and journalists, to students, domestic workers, librarians, teachers and care-workers; from high-schoolers, to the over eighties, POETRY FOR UKRAINE brings together an incredible 254 poets from 53 countries around the world, all showing their support for Ukraine!
Please consider buying a copy or two (they’ll make wonderful gifts); not only do you get over 300 pages of amazing poetry from around the world, all profits from this publication will go to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund; we will donate to the Fund monthly after we receive monthly sales statements from Amazon.
I’m proud to be included in this worldwide fundraising effort. You can read more about it, and see a list of poets and their countries, here.
sometimes in dreams I
remember a time when my spirit was
lifted by stars, silent
as a secret, and then
suddenly moonbound dark and
ancient and reawakened—like the
hushed feathered womb of owl
wings singing in a windswept quaver
Another orange and black bird for the Year of the Tiger. The striped owl is found in Central and South America, inhabiting savannas and semi-open grasslands.
My poem is another Golden Shovel, with lines extracted from Arthur Sze’s wonderful poem “The Owl”. I’ve used it before as inspiration, and probably will again.
And I’m sure owls will show up, as they have before, on Draw A Bird Day as well.
Dazzled by the promise of gold
the touch of Midas casts its net–
a hand that remains always cold
locked in a prison of regret.
Segregated behind closed doors
accruing unpayable debt–
too haunted to go anywhere–
locked in a prison of regret.
Tarnished by jealousy’s blindness
darkness grows, becomes a death threat–
drinking and drugs lead to madness
locked in a prison of regret.
I took these photos of the entrance to 57 West 57th Street after a dactor’s appointment there–the building was constructed to be, and still is, primarily medical offices. I was especially taken by the griffin-like creatures at the top of the arch and the scale stonework surround. The patterning above the door is quite wonderful too. I couldn’t quite get the entire door into the close up–I would have had to step out into traffic, unfortunately.
When I looked for the history of the building, I found a number of strange tales were attached to it. Soon after the Medical Arts Sanitarium opened in 1928 on the 14th floor, a patient threw herself out a window.
But the penthouse, which for some reason contained living quarters, has had only tragedy attached to it from start to finish. The details are hazy–I found a number of slightly different versions of the story online–but the first owner, Edna Champion, was a gold digger whose old and very wealthy husband conveniently died in Paris after a violent altercation with her lover, Charles Brazelle. Edna and Charles moved to New York; Edna bought the entire Medical Arts Building with part of her inherited riches so she and Charles could occupy the penthouse.
Needless to say it did not end well. The relationship descended into chaos–and Edna was either murdered by Charles or died of drugs and drink (or both). One of her bodyguards then tossed Charles out a window to his parallel death.
A later tenancy by Carlton Alsop also ended badly. The place was said to be haunted, and his new wife left within a year. Alsop later had a mental breakdown himself, and eventually ended up as a patient in one of the medical facilities in the building below.
The penthouse had a new brief life as an art gallery opening in 2011, but it closed after several years. I could find no information on any current residents there. But the rest of the building still houses medical offices.
Here’s a bit of a happier gold–signs of spring in Central Park. Colleen’s #TankaTuesday prompt is once again a color theme. I chose gold, and wrote a kyrielle. It’s one of the prompt forms from Muri’s April Scavenger Hunt–I’m doing NaPoWriMo at kblog but thought I’d slip one of them in here.
You can read more about the history and see more photos of 57 West 57 Street here.
And as always Dan Antion is the host of Thursday Doors.
And I couldn’t resist including the great Shirley Bassey.