Today in New York
Today, while moving my feet along Broadway alone,
I thought about the men and women who walked here
before me, in the days when Broadway was a dirt path,
when Central Park was an unmarked patch of wilderness,
and elms were the highest towers.
I thought about the Europeans who looked upon
the lush landscape and envisioned a utopia
for themselves, free from the tyranny of kings,
while slaying the indigenous protectors of the land.
I thought about the taxi drivers, bankers, criminals,
bodega owners, sex workers, students, police officers,
Washington Square Park guitar players, bums, socialites,
and street philosophers who blended their voices together
to harmonize a new human tone.
I thought about Walt Whitman quietly writing poetry
on the Brooklyn ferry, about Herman Melville sitting
at the mouth of the Hudson daydreaming about a whale,
about young Billie Holiday standing behind a dimly lit
Harlem microphone, her heart a volcano ready to erupt,
about Bob Dylan, blown in from the north country,
setting down his dusty suitcase in Greenwich Village
with a song in his pocket and a twinkle in his eye,
and about some angelic and nameless kid in the Bronx,
possessed by a new energy rising from the concrete,
who opened his mouth and spontaneously spoke
the words “hip hop” into existence.
I thought about the profound and unrecorded thoughts
of the men and women who have come and gone,
(their secrets and shame, their hopes and dreams)
accompanied by whatever music was ringing inside
their heads, like millions of private operas.
And I thought about the unborn souls who will walk here
after me, with names and faces still unknown,
and how their streets will look different than mine,
and how their words and music would sound foreign
to my ears, and how they will judge our behavior
as we have judged the behavior of ages before us,
and how they will wage new wars and pray for new peace,
and how they will be responsible for both miracles and tragedies,
and how they will know things for certain
that to me are just the whisper of a dream.