by Geo Ong
The other night, without planning to, I travelled to various places in various times. I used no machine—in fact, the F train moved half as slowly rather than 4 times as fast (or however speed must be achieved to break the appropriate barrier and cross the appropriate continuum.)
There was a poetry reading in Alphabet City. The streets, which are now cold, wore a dark coat that night and from the outside the front windows of the JujoMukti Tea Lounge were heavily draped.
Walking inside was the first travel trip of the night. I had stumbled upon either Shangri-La or one of its many copycats. I sat on a sofa, feeling high up in the Himalayas and warm too in a room dressed in reds and golds. With the door closed, the outside world stopped existing. The only way we’d remember it is through our poetry, which of course was told through our words.
The poets stood up, one by one, each with something different in their hands. Sometimes it was a clean piece of paper, typed. Other times it was a clean piece of paper, handwritten. One held a notebook. Another held three notebooks. One poet’s piece of paper didn’t have a clean edge on it, yet he read from it with ease. He held in his other hand a harmonica, which he played as an introduction, and later, for another poet as accompaniment.
I sat there drinking Genmaicha, a personal favourite. (I later find out that this tea was originally the tea most drunk by poor Japanese generations ago and is still referred to as People’s Tea. This explains a lot.) The poems took me to Brooklyn, then to New Orleans, then back to Manhattan, then to Providence and clear across the country to San Francisco. Occasionally my friend, who’d been filming the night, ducked in and out of my periphery, holding her camera, trying to get the best angles, and suddenly I’d be in Paris. The tea turned into wine, the English into French, and the daydreaming into fantasizing.
The event ended and I had travelled back to that particular desolate stretch of 4th St. But the thing about emerging from a dream is that you don’t always remember what had happened. I came back calmer, rejuvenated, somehow feeling better equipped. Perhaps there wasn’t an actual time difference between there and here or then and now, because I still remember the poems.