Follow the Flying Fish
For the Walls to Hear
Drifting down the stairs from Fourteenth Street to the L train, the sound of Charlie Musselwhite filling my soul with Black Water. I walk along the lines of subway rails, feeling the concrete low over my head, Charlie blowing harp like the whistle of a train across a night of blue moonlight.
Floating on sound grey walls below the city seem further then that night train. Departure sooths the worries heaped over my head, and they feel light with the burden carried by blues.
Ahead of me three men play their own music, drums, guitar, and a man in striped vest and curly hair sings through an old NYPD blue bullhorn. He puts down the bullhorn to play trumpet.
I try to remember the bands name, I bought their CD last year. Charlie and his harp are in my head forever, I can have him later, so I listen to the music of the station.
Between the horn and the drum I notice a man with a paintbrush. He’s painting the group play, painting it on an old subway map. As I see him a blond woman takes a picture of him painting the band.
I have to become part of it, so I pull out my cell phone and take a picture of the woman taking a picture of the man painting a portrait on an old subway map of the band on the L platform and a man singing through a police bullhorn.
When I came down from the street the weight of the day rode with me. If a man can tremble without moving I was he, and only the sound of the blues in my head held me up. That weight, that weight you can’t see comes from the city, and all the troubles and worries that pile up in thin layers so you don’t even know what’s got you down anymore.
But all that changed when I saw the woman take a picture of the man painting on old subway maps. And I saw a woman with young eyes and old hands in an alpaca hat smiling at the music. And a young girl all in black pushed by, ruining my cell phone photo, so she could be closer to the music. And all around, on a subway platform in the night, a hundred people gathered close to hear, and mutter to strangers that the guy with the bullhorn sounds like Tom Waits.
The L rolled up the tracks and we left the band alone at the station. As the train moved away I could hear the trumpet man blowing horn like he would split the earth with sound, just for the sake of it, just for the walls to hear.