Friday, October 22, 2004


(a draft)

Coming out of the east on a murky purple-clouded summer's night they invaded steel blue New York like a plague of invisible locusts, harvesting with great care the words and anger of America and sealing the memories away for all eternity on hundreds of scrolls with brush-stroked ink smelling of jasmine and sea salt and countless waves of time. But this was only part of their mission.

They lived in Central Park, or so it was said, in little black silk tents hidden among the beaten trees. The secret chinamen would make green tea and invite strangers to talk hidden and shaded during the heat of the day. At night they burned low fires and incense and strange visions came to those who breathed that air. After courteous good-byes visitors wandered away subtly changed and quieted like the slow spinning fall of leaves in autumn as they said hello to the dreaming earth.

Reporters got a hold of the story somehow and wanted to run with it. They were hot and eager feeling the magic that was growing. "Mysterious invasion!" the headlines would read but there was no interest from the editors sitting like kings in plush chairs so the story died an ashy death--Me, I'd sit there winter mornings watching the steam rise from the grates and sipping my scalding black coffee wondering if they were freezing to death in the park.

I soon had my answer. Walking the streets to work that winter I would often come across them in shadowed alleys brewing strange elixirs in little black pots and smiling toothily at everyone they saw, thin bodies wrapped in some sort of bulky parkas but still with those little black slippers on their feet. Once I stopped and accepted a cup from a beaming little man and though it was ten below and jagged windy I had to open my coat it was that good, like a sweet liquid fire that didn't burn.

Then the dark days which they had foreseen fell upon us like a bitter rain.

With no one looking chaos came and a million suits in high glass towers raged incoherent like mad scuttling beetles. Crowds rushed into the dirty streets like hordes of frightened lemmings and in the subways green flickering light and madness and the sad musicians with their scuffed guitars, and girls with painted eyes throwing handfuls of worthless paper money at them. "Sing, sing!" they cried hoping for a smile and yesterday's return.

Destruction followed. A sullen silence fell. I walked the lost streets, glittering seas of broken glass rising on all sides and hope dying.

It was the end of all songs or so we thought, and we were lost like spoiled children until they came with strange wisdom and gentle words, and powers unknown to the west, establishing order once again. The snarling pace of life was slowed as we drank their elixirs and took counsel with them, seeking new visions.

The hated towers were pulled down and the shadows destroyed?bold sunshine warmed the empty miles of cold concrete. Elegant structures of carved wood and bright paint took their place and the secret chinamen had Central Park for their own to live in forever.

The source of their power was revealed to me as I lay dying many years later, when their subtle victory over the west was nearly complete.

The spirits of honored ancestors had given them supreme mystic strength and wise counsel but this simple answer had eluded us all. This also explained the importance of the little black slippers which had puzzled me but now I saw helped them tap into the energy of all living things which came in the form of vibrations through the ground. Then I smiled and was content to die as a happy man who had found the last piece of a beautiful puzzle long sought.

copyright © 2004 by Craig Snyder


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