I was having dinner at my in-laws' tonight, and my mother-in-law was playing Yo-Yo Ma. I think she was trying to cleanse her palate, as I'd just been playing some Allman Brothers. Anyway, while half-listening I heard Ma playing something familiar - the haunting, beguiling sound of a Piazzolla tango.

I started on-again/off-again relationship with Astor Piazzolla through a Kronos Quartet's EP, "Five Tango Sensations," that I picked up in college. Each tango in the set is named for a human emotional state - Asleep, Loving, Anxiety, Despartar, Fear - and each has pervaded my personal mythology since.

Which leads me to a piece I wrote in the winter of 2000, my first winter in New York City. During this time I was doing a lot of staying out late and making a home of the city, mostly the free parts of it like parks, public commons, and mass transit. One sliver of that home-ness was given to me periodically on the 7 train, when I crossed paths with a blind old Argentinian fellow with an accordion who played tangos for cash. I wanted so bad to immortalize him in words - the longing in every squeeze of the accordion, the way his eyes drooped so much that he looked like he was asleep while playing, his deep baritone voice bellowing out between songs, "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ANY DONATIONS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED." Then, one night, I did.

I wrote this, a sort-of poem written in loose blank verse, almost entirely while at the Queensboro Plaza train station on a brutally cold night. It's about many people and many things, but mainly it's about my early love affair with every soul of New York City. I read it aloud at many, many open mikes until, one fateful summer evening in 2001 while gallivanting across the Brooklyn Bridge with Daniel Nester and Ravi Shankar (the poet, not the sitar virtuoso), I mentioned the piece to them; Dan asked me to send it to him for consideration in his online La Petite Zine, and the rest is history.

I'd actually forgotten about the piece for the past few years, until my mother-in-law and Yo-Yo Ma jogged my memory. After digging it up, I've put up a link to it in my Ephemera section. I don't include this piece as Ephemera because I think it's ephemeral to my work in terms of content - it's actually one of my favorite pieces I've written - but because it's structurally so different from most anything else I've published.  

 "And the City Swallowed the Moon" on La Petite Zine

AuthorJohn Proctor