The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 8 no. 1


Patricia Goedicke

Chase Scene, Many Levels


Someone on the front steps, ahem.
Knock. Wait. But not for long, the
minute the conductor lets loose
the door opens on a windstorm, whole buildings blow away
like trees in a hurricane. Body and mind both
follow after them, from bargain basement to penthouse
kids squirt up and down the escalators

as everything swings into action.
Street people climb into window wells
dragging their cardboards behind them, bums wobble across
iron overpasses, cashmere
and silk business suits fidget outside elevators, Going Up?
Going Down? Sometimes it’s hard to isolate

one movement from another. Or which rhythm.
Or composer either. Sadness creeps up from the gutters
to listen in, to expand. In great, swank
perfumed department stores, from floor to parallel floor
banked instruments sweep like boiling clouds
scudding across ceilings, voluminous
mountains of chords stack themselves up
in deep, vibrating piles. Intricate clicks and burbles

that talk back to each other and then stretch themselves, elastic
as salt water taffy. Crowds of shoppers separate
into clusters of single notes, preoccupied faces ascend
from one escalator to the next, passing each other silently,
with embarrassed half smiles, but suddenly
as in a TV chase scene, a dashing cop
leaps over the guardrail, from the sleek Up trail
to the frantic Down trail or is it

the other way? The mezzanine hovers, superior.
Fountains of rose water aspire
to the top floor like the long, windblown fingers
of fairy tale cypresses. Outside, leaves fall
on scuffed shoes. Bronze arpeggios rattle
and then subside. Lazily. Into one or two scraps of paper,
kids lollygagging to school.

Or later, snow in the city.
Sheets of it slide across the streetlights. Friend
talks to friend on the telephone while the tongue probes
a piece of gristle from a tooth. Pulls at it. With a hollow
sucking sound, one of the friends whispers
something desperate, all the other noises
reorganize themselves, birds hop up and down the staff
to keep warm but the music changes again

in mid stream, old memories open their arms
gently. On fire escapes for lovers
dangling their feet, on windy afternoons telling stories. Kites fluttering
and streaking above them. A woman on a stepladder changing
a lightbulb while the next door neighbor peers down at her
from an upstairs window, what can possibly save us,
the spider tiptoeing up the wall?

Because what’s coming now is rock climbers, teetering piccolos
like scared window washers holding on
with thinner and thinner fingers above the traffic.
As night rumbles below them, gnaws at their loosening ankles,
metal platforms hit bottom
in underground tunnels, shudder the entire city but not completely:
seagulls balancing themselves at the top
of barges dipping across the harbor lurch

and do not fall, pigeons shuttle upwards
like rugs rippling between buildings
as protein talks to protein, from pitch to quivering pitch
calcium exchanges with potassium,
involuntary muscles stir, falling and then rising
like voices just out of earshot, there’s no stopping them, each
snappy syncopation steps on the heels of the next

especially towards the end. The strings gather in the square
and then the bands, the massed, brassy crash
of tubas. Trombones. The street fills with them
as the legs jump up and run after them, trying to catch
whatever they can but there are too many extras,
too many kids bobbing in trees, too many sad
enemies and friends weeping, too many fiery conversations
and brave banners waving. Old soldiers salute

the last raising of the flag to the top of its staff
where it streams over their heads but finally it’s unreachable,
there’s so much going on, so much shimmering
and crackling in tiny corners, so much shine
from all directions, so many levels
everywhere in the mind.