Buckhout Writer

For The Win / Dave Buckhout › Verse
For The Win
› Published in The Write Launch
There is a photograph of the East Village that hangs on his wall . . .

Taken December 14, 1996, the subject matter: urban, brownstones unadorned, fire escapes to one side, cars parked bumper-to-bumper and of makes, models, styles that carbon-date the instant.

A lamp post stands in the middle-foreground, slightly left of frame.

It is a focal point, but not in the manner of an exclamation; it is more dutiful: a flaghoist by which to run up warnings to the future.

And there was plenty of future at the moment the shutter snapped shut: bright, as bright as that sparkling late-year day captured on film.

The lamp post unrolling circular decorative coils as fernheads in Spring, coils hanging out the light as a shepherd’s lantern would hang from hooked staff.

And that lantern is lit, this though bright beaming sunlight infiltrates the avenued urban canyon and brownstones of geologic strata rising from riverbeds of asphalt.

And that lantern was lit if only in the mind behind the lens on that Saturday afternoon in 1996.

It was, perhaps, a beacon: be positive, but prepare, it might have said.

Run with confidence, but ready yourself, it might have implied.

And the shooter’s mind, having snap-captured the scene, was put to alert.

If tucked away into the cedar chest of the mind’s back closet, away from the youth of that pinpoint in time—that instant—it was nonetheless there.

He would not have known why, but only that he must prepare, he must be ready.

Be ready for the towers to fall, but faint outlines in the late Autumn haze beyond the lamp post.
Be ready for a rocky road to insecurity, of personal ships-of-state navigating jagged coasts.
Be ready for economies to collapse . . . and recover . . . and collapse again.
Be ready for the pandemic.

And yet, he could be forgiven having found himself unprepared, not ready for such things . . .

For such darkness did not exist in the sharp light of that afternoon, ambling about the East Village, lower Manhattan, vintage Canon AE-1 in-hand, having ambled up on the slipstream instant a creative mind seeks: the perfect frame telling a story, this one of an urban streetside in late-millennium Gotham, old-seeming yet contemporary, the gleaming twin towers of commerce—of national prowess—fading but present inside the mist of cool white light in the background.

He could be forgiven for that lantern-lit lamp post having not registered as a searchlight plying the black-dense darkness, could be forgiven for it not having not registered as such.

In fact, he could be forgiven if he had inferred the opposite from the sparkle beam clarity that was that day; and if only because one can’t live in darkness and in light, simultaneously.

One can know that the two are of a piece, that they run out on similar frequencies, and in familiar rhythms and grooves.

And we know all of this because . . .

The towers fell and yet the sun still rose.
The stomach-tight insecurity came and yet the sun still rose.
The economies collapsed and the pandemic swept through and yet the sun continued to rise.

One can carbon-date innocence.

One can use such nostalgic longing as a life jacket.

But the light and the dark, they are of a piece.

And a life jacket will only keep you afloat.

If anything, the lit lamp post was saying to him this: at some point you will have to swim for it, you will have to swim for your life.

Be ready. Prepare.

This light-dark urban canyon, an indelible freeze-frame instant captured decades ago, it was of a piece with right now, and of the time in between the two, and of all the victories and all the defeats and the mostly rote routine mediocre instants in between the two.

It was of everything that led up to the shutter snap-click on that crystal cool December Saturday in 1996, and of all the days and the weeks and the years that have unrolled since.

Be ready. Prepare . . .

To swim, lest you sink.
To strive, despite the darkness.
To win the day, one day at a time ~