Sean Singer

Azabache (Black)

Today in the taxi I brought two English women from Battery Park to Columbus Circle who told me they have a business making art from peoples’ dreams. They said how they crystalized the dream into their projects.

I thought of Bruno Schulz who said when people sleep distant worlds pass across their closed eyelids.

When Charles Mingus was dying of ALS he went to Cuernavaca. Pachita, a curandero, gave him bitter teas and enchanted creams. When Mingus dreamed, he leapt and swam, across rivers like salmon chased by bears.

When he hatched from a mass of pink eggs, he was a fish, and swam over the bodies of his dead ancestors.

Collateral (dir. by Michael Mann, 2004)

Today in the taxi I picked up a man on West 46th Street near 6th. He was going to Union Square. His face, head, hands, everything was entirely tattooed.

When we were just about at his destination another car cut me off abruptly and I honked the other driver. Then, my passenger said something like: “I would have beat his ass for you.” I said: “People are crazy.” He said: “I would have beat his ass for you... he was Asian. I would have beat his ass.” The door opened and he exited my world forever.

When Jamie Foxx drove the taxi, it was a red and yellow thing, almost abstract against the skyline’s black dragon. At some point in the movie, the assassin becomes the driver and the driver becomes the assassin.

Here speed was necessary because it meant the tattooed man would be gone quicker. It was like having to clean congealed goose blood from the fender after the bird was severed on the road.


Last night in the taxi I picked up a woman on 42nd between 11th and 12th. She said: “I'm going to Lincoln Center and I’m really late!” I took 12th Avenue to 56th Street to 11th to 65th, Lincoln Center. When I turned she said: “Which way are you going?” with an annoyed, condescending tone. I said, “I'm taking 65th Street. Lincoln Center is right over there.” She said: “Sorry. I thought we were coming from the East side.”

I was reminded of Kafka’s dream. Once a boy and a girl were playing and started talking about the Lord and Her interest in sin. “When I commit a sin,” the boy said, the Devil comes up behind me, you just can’t see him.” The girl said: “I see him, too, but that’s not who I mean.”

Divide By Zero

Last night in the taxi I brought a family from the Momofuku Milk Bar on Columbus Avenue to Harlem, St. Nicholas Avenue near 150th Street. We had a good conversation. At the end of the trip, when I was taking the mother's wheelchair out of the back, I thought the father was going to hand me a tip, but instead it was a card from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When Simeon tired of people asking him for advice, he climbed to the top of a pillar in Syria and lived on his platform among the ruins. Boys used a pulley to lift him flatbreads and goat’s milk.

Edward Gibbon said Simeon’s ulcer might shorten, but could never disturb this celestial life.


Tonight in the taxi I started on West 120th Street and went to Hoboken, Secaucus, and all over midtown. The friendliest passengers were two drag queens I picked up after their performance in Astoria, Queens.

Their zebra prints and glitter reflected light in the moon’s pool. They said they were “sisters of the cloth” and wanted to make it to television.

The night ended with a summons from the police because I made a U-turn on 116th street. You can’t ask of the city more than it can give you. When they left, their feathers flew into the wind and they ran after them.

Purple Death

Tonight in the taxi I knew the silence in the car, with its gray and stain-proof velour that absorbed the silence on the other side of the windshield. The city vibrated and pushed the air up or down, as wind among the petals.

I thought of insects who might seek yellow pollen to stave off their own destruction. Kafka saw butterflies as “great opened-out books of magic.”

It’s possible, but not now, that the Lord will open the door and suck the noise out of the car with Her tongue. It’s possible for Her, but She won’t do it now. She will be happy if one day there were no sounds attached to words, and no ears to hear them.

Sean Singer is the author of Discography (Yale University Press, 2002), winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America and a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts; and Honey & Smoke (Eyewear Publishing, 2015). He drives a taxi in New York City.
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home