The moon was full and breaking momentarily from between occluding rain clouds, these cameo appearances were always going to be enough to provide the denizens of the street a convenient pseudo-teleology to explain the uncommon outbreak of aggravation. That it was to be an evening out of the ordinary was already apparent to me, as, some blocks before, I had been caught up in a minor bit of bother, a youth in a floppy hooded sweatshirt having thrust out toward my ancient frail person one arm over which the sweatshirt sleeve drooped enclosing what appeared to be an object, saying in a low and serious tone, I've got a snub nosed .38, are you ready to die? And now as I approached the gaping mouth which is the entry to the downtown underground transit station I could see that the familiar assembled gypsy enclave of gewgaw vendors, drifters, street preachers, vagrants, panhandlers and buskers was abuzz with agitation, everyone seeming tense and edgy excepting only the gangbangers, with their team-coded baseball caps, who as usual stood off in watchful slouching poses, feigning an olympian unconcern. The social node appeared caught up in a hubbub that centered upon a grizzled legless man on crutches who had established himself at the station entry to beg. What was remarkable in this was his elected modus of plying the mendicant trade: when anyone came near him, he cursed vehemently and spat unceremoniously into their faces. From what could be gathered in a late arrival upon the scene, this ungentle method was not surprisingly proving wholly unsuccessful, as pedestrians entering and exiting the subterranean transit station were wisely steering round the man; yet undaunted by the manifest failure of his aggressive solicitations, the man seemed spurred with each fresh failure into a wider orbit of threatening approach, so that, when given a wide berth by passersby, he pursued each frightened hurrying victim a few further stalking paces, wheeling forward with unwonted speed upon his metal crutches to accost, firing vile curses accompanied by great gobs of saliva into the night as he went. And not to be limited in his infernal fury by the thus diminishing stock of pedestrian targets, he had now begun to expand his range to include a set of street vendors at their table of gewgaws as well as a nearby busker whose regular post was marked out at the station entry by a small amp and a guitar case laid open and dotted with coins and bills contributed by passersby he had been serenading. But the singer had now ceased his song to wipe away the spattered phlegm from his clothing, and had begun to issue angry warnings to the legless spitter, who in turn seemed triumphant, taking an obscure and incalculable delight in this acknowledgment of his persistent efforts to offend, and thus redoubled his cursing and gobbing, spewing a rocket launch of mucoid missiles all across the table of gewgaws and the sellers thereof. This final attack so enraged the busker, a large and powerful young man, that in the unmistakable street signal of real trouble on the way, his hands were raising into the air, the air that was now charged with an acute presence of adrenalin and impending violence. Two bewhiskered veteran campaigners, standing to one side and carefully avoiding the frothy spray of bronchial ejectamenta, could be heard discussing the situation. Dude going to start a riot, said one. Word, said the other. Dude going to get hisself killed, said the first. The second veteran now paused, and appeared to reflect a moment, gazing up into the endarkened heaven above the station mouth, where the clouds were again briefly parting to allow the emergence of the large, milky, mist-cloaked face of the Queen of the Night. Gotta be the full moon, he said, with the quiet certainty of a researcher who has captured through the acquisition of unimpeachable empirical evidence the solution to a particularly nagging problem in the realm of the natural sciences.
And Now (1.9.09): photo by Tom Raworth