We floated there along with clouds,
clouds our ceiling, clouds our ground.
The Sunday Swim, Comanche Trace, by Noel Crook
Today East Harlem is beautiful in a Thomas Kinkade kind of way.
Layers of pinkish light, and fluffy clouds detailed above the antique molding, and a thin film of pretty is layered on top of the dusty beauty.
It feel like a Thomas Kinkade painting, dreamy, sleepy.
There are mothers dragging their children home from school,
pulling them past fruit stands, Italian ices, and the Churro lady on the corner of 110 and 3rd. The sisters are working outside Our Lady Queen of Angels, with the banners from the papal visit still decorating the neighborhood. There are students in their uniforms lining the streets, flirting, laughing, walking arm-in-arm to the bodega to grab a bagel and a Snapple.
I love this place right now; with the fluffy clouds in the cold sky surrounded in a haze of absurd rose. I love this place, with the ripples of curls and columns on the brownstones rolling across the horizon like plaster waves. I love this place, with the women hanging out on front porches with boom boxes and the men hanging out of windows, expectorating onto the sidewalk below. I love this place with all the hushed chaos of after school activity in the golden hour.
The neighbors are the doctor and his wife, walking past the projects on Tito Puente Way. The neighbors are the sisters at the convents over by 1st avenue, and the pretty young teacher in the Anne Taylor Loft dress walking into Esperanza Preparatory Academy. The neighbors are my students hanging out on renovated front stoops that line Lexington: old Harlem mansions in their obsolete glory.
On the corner of 112 and 1st, if you look all the way down the street, you will see St. John the Divine rising out of the trees of Morningside.
You are just a block from the East River, and towering above the houses on the skyline is St. John the Divine.
It makes the world smaller: it connects the two worlds of the West Side and the East.
But it makes the world bigger.
There's no longer just this world: this world of the Herb Garden on 111th; and the car shops lining first avenue and E 117th; and the Old Navy on top of the Target on top of the Costco on top of the Petsmart on Pleasant Avenue.
There's a world out there of St. John the Divine, and the Hudson, and the Jersey cliffs, and Scranton, PA, and Lake Eerie, and Chicago, and the Mississippi headwaters, and the Deadlands, and Grand Teton, and Cheyanne Wyoming, and the Columbia River, the Redwood forests and the rocks that line State Route 1, and the limitless waters of the Pacific Ocean.