Introduction to the photo-collection, Night Visions, published by Bruno Gmuender Press.
Like the poet Robert Frost, I am one who has been acquainted with the night. Acquainted only, because who can understand never mind thoroughly catalogue the many moods and atmospheres, delusions and chilled delights, imprecisions and peculiar visions unique to those hours when most folk are safely abed and it becomes greatly unclear who’s haunting who, the quick or the dead.
For many years, I would polish off most of my prose late at night, after tea, certainly, and when possessed and unable to tear myself from my notebook or computer screen, long, long hours after dinner. In the unceasing noise of cities especially, a sort of surcease from incessant sound would descend with the persistent softness of those halos of humidity around streetlights, once midnight had imperceptibly passed. At times it might even approach the effervescence of a sigh. I would rise and throw on outerwear, my mind now pleasantly vacated, and I would seek the loneliness of soaked sidewalks, the interminable tarmac of avenues, the fleetingness of glimpsed bridges: looped lines of steel filigreed frosting upon the never quite ebony, electrically illuminated, shadows high in the sky.
Other people arrived within that encrusted private-life I conspired to make alongside night with the suddenness of strayed asteroids. A limousine might speed to a curb and stop to disgorge revelers, masqued, in tuxedos and brilliants, the laughter even more hollow for the echoes of iron side-walls. Or, a doorway would smash open upon stucco and a couple tumble out onto a lintel, limp with used gaiety, Courvoisier, cheap “blow,” and sidle slowly into a hiccoughing heap of torn clothing. Once a cobalt sedan shuddered to a halt at the cruisiest pier on the Hudson near dawn, myself hidden from the driver’s view; he sat, nothing but silhouette, erratically reddened by the tip of a sucked-in cigarette. Ten minutes later, his back door creaked ajar, then quietly shut, and the Ciera crept off, leaving behind the gift of a silver clad corpse. One rhinestone shined pump, spot-lit upon the embankment, slowly spun on a toe.
Faces, when grasped, were partial: a parallelogram of cheekbone and eye; semi-circle of lips, chin, and nostril encompassing a slim stick of Sensemilla wisping up past furled hat-brim. Was ever such beauty as two young men’s faces smashed into each other, inseparable, slow tongues snaked seeking, eyelashes melded under flickering neon, iced green? While nearby Hackensack “Guidos” crawled their Granny apple Mustangs at two miles an hour over uneven cobblestones, growling critiques of Trannies’ yellow hair-jobs metamorphosed to fire-orange carmine, eyeliners blackened into cartoon purple and seaweed blue: perhaps in expectation of harsher love-scenes to come.
Sound assumed a new tyranny long after traffic’s buzz hum and horns had dimmed. As forest dwellers freeze upon a twig-snap so would I halt with a freestanding cough -- out of nowhere, seize on a breath from a doorway, listen to patterned susurration of cicadas or Lime boughs. Tropical nights were most profligate with nocturnal chitterings; cities unjustly deprived, and thus all the more perilous. The oncoming squonch of under-filled truck tires spell out warning? Or invitation?
Muscled shoulders can catch most of an alley’s illumination, a throbbing vein fascinate like a King Cobra, arms/legs become lumber or limbs. For all my peering, I’m not certain I’ll want to witness but still I’m drawn to their inter leavings. A forehead turns to wood, stone, alabaster in stages, as I try not to stare. Can this be what I’ve been missing? The infinite longing of a tenor’s low-toned plea, as a piano noodles near meaning and a bass thrums like the blood stuffed in my temples. Every ballade half-heard now is plaintive with a yesterday never precisely remembered.
And so I await the coronet’s lassitudinous wail, signaling an unprepared-for jazz-dawn, calling me home -- to numbed slumber.
©, 2010, Felice Picano