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Biography, reviews, texts

Photographing New York, an exhibition by Cesare Bedognè at Dagmar Schmidla Gallery, Köln

Article text
from the Leaving series, New York 2004
Photographing New York, by Cesare Bedognè


Like the agony of windows
in the fading red
of a winter sun
when free winds sharpen
boundless perspectives
of streets at dusk,
and the lost Jew roves
the dismantled fairgrounds
of Coney Island:
his ample clothing
scattered in the evening…

Like an abandoned chair
in the rain of a Brooklyn
dooryard,
under a beheaded tree
and a broken umbrella,
when the murky panes of Chinese
coin-op Laundromats
mirror womens’ faces
between ice-crystals,
and the silence is a corpse
on the pavement
of dawn…

Like a hooker’s green eyes
throwing flowers
among crashing stars
and flashing signs
in Times Square,
when yellow taxis
drip blood
at your doorstep,
and Smyrna’s ill-fated exiles
cook octopus tentacles
on the fluorescent grill
of the night…

Like the clock’s hands
that stop dead in the creaking
alehouse
where you order a Budweiser
in an intoxication of riddles,
while the wailing of a saxophone
blows from the cold chinks
of a bare Bowery garret,
and the lame homeless man
lingers
spellbound
listening…

Like metropolitan angels
throwing themselves out
at the Queensboro Bridge
before drowning
in musty bookshops
or diners open 24 hours,
where disfigured Arabs
fry rotten fish
in a desolation of chimneys – and you
take off your shoes
along the misty shores of Far Rockaway
and barefoot on the sand
dream
of skimming shells…

Like a darkened door
nails you to the mystery
of three dumb windows
screeching – Keep Off! –
at number 219 of a street
with no name (and indeed one
cannot enter, not even with a pupil’s
fragment,
an iris’ drop), but you
set them on fire anew
in a blaze of silver
nitrate
and then fly away
free
in the Harlem sky…

Like houses splintered
corroded condemned
among rats and cat piss
of the Bronx, when a solitary
Puerto Rican sailor
sibilates secrets
into your armpit’s hollow
and anxiety vomits
glassy nails
among filthy curtains
chicken’s feet and basements
of Belmont
or Van Nest…

Like in Williamsburg
along rusty railings – your own steps,
as ever, have led you
infallibly
towards the sea – you suddenly
discover two windows
in place of your eyes
and an empty laid table
in place of your heart, while the vagabonds
spit shudders
in the nostalgia of a East River
which is no longer Canada
nor Alaska
and not even a flock
of returning birds…

Like sooty skeletons of rooms
behind the dim panes
of disused flophouses – confetti
on the floor and a green dragon’s
skin
forgotten by maddened migrants
from Tangshan
or Shangai – while suburban trains
escape
towards a murmur
of other oceans
leaving behind photographs
out of focus
and clotted blood
on the tracks
of Pennsylvania Station…

Or like a seagull’s shriek
between remote northern walls,
the diseased shadows
of a Dutch twilight
which you now remember,
remember; or the globe of fortune
at a crossroad
where no one will ever pass again,
no one – this grey crowd
and yet no one…

It remains thus unfathomable
and deserted New York
with its faces vanishing
in the night’s neon flashes:
it leaves you only with a shred of fog
and a stitch of exile,
like the gaze you have forgotten
at the window
between broken bricks
and iridescent
circles
of gasoline.