Primitive Allures

Alloyed. © Chris Bronsk 2015.

“My hand will always remember the density of those silver dollars, the dead weight as I tumbled them back and forth, the dull clink as the coins touched. The nature of the weight offered a lesson in value too; you knew by a sense of the coin’s unique inner gravity that the silver was pure, that it wasn’t an alloy. Holding the coin in your palm you felt the primitive allure of the metal itself, its truth. Years later, I would pay for college by fixing washing machines and dryers. I was a repairman for a company that installed coin-operated machines in apartments buildings and laundromats. We had collectors in the field, men who worked set routes, hitting laundry rooms all over the city, emptying the coin boxes into canvas sacks. Late in the afternoon they returned to the shop and delivered the dirty bags to the counting room. The coins were filthy, turning everything they touched the lugubrious gray of pencil lead (you see the same graphic stain on the fingertips of people who play slot machines compulsively).  —Charles D’Ambrosio, from “This Is Living” in Loitering: New & Collected Essays.


Exit. © Chris Bronsk 2015.

“Another thing I enjoy is eating candy by myself while I read a book in the evening, but I don’t think that will make a good happy memory either. I like to play the piano, I like to look at the plants that come up in the yard beginning in March, I enjoy walking with my dog, and looking down into his face at his good eye and his bad eye, I like to see the sky in the late afternoon, especially in November, I like petting my cats, hearing their cries, and holding them. But I suspect that the memory of my pets will not be enough, either, even if I love them. There things that make me laugh, but often they are grim things, and they will not make a good happy memory either, unless I share them with someone else.” —Lydia Davis, from “Happy Memories”

(for “Visitors,” a new, ongoing series on Boston subway passengers)

Distant Voices

Distant Voices. © Chris Bronsk 2015.

Young men stand on street corners,
their clothes expensive, their cars impractical, wildly
colored, and they will do anything but
put a piece
of another piece
in a certain place.

—Toi Derricotte, from “Whitman, Come Again to the Cities”

(This shot is from “Visitors,” a new, ongoing series of photographs taken on the Boston subway.)

Swallowed Like Jewels

Jewels. © Chris Bronsk 2015.


We work in this building and we are hideous
in the fluorescent light, you know our clothes
woke up this morning and swallowed us like jewels
and ride up and down the elevators, filled with us,
turning and returning like the spray of light that goes
around dance-halls among the dancing fools.
My office smells like a theory, but here one weeps
to see the goodness of the world laid bare
and rising with the government on its lips,
the alphabet congealing in the air
around our heads. But in my belly’s flames
someone is dancing, calling me by many names
that are secret and filled with light and rise
and break, and I see my previous lives.

—Denis Johnson, The Incognito Lounge

(This photograph is from Visitors, an ongoing series of street photography taken on Boston’s mass transit.)


Platform. © Chris Bronsk 2015.

“My life is no longer pulled in different directions or tied to anyone or anything; it is closed in on itself in the silence of death. I turn off the light and shut my eyes. I feel the rhythmic movement of the train as it rolls into the unknown; this movement also brings me peace—the peace of an alibi. Not only am I separated from everything, but I am not situated at any particular spot in the universe: I’m just passing through. I have no more ties to the earth, no more desire or curiosity.” —Simone de Beauvoir, America Day by Day

(This shot is part “Visitors,” a new series of photographs taken in the Boston subway.)

Small Enough to Save

Blue Commute (I). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

Blue Commute (II). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

Blue Commute (III). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

“There are ducks at Howard Beach, and herons farther on at Jamaica Bay, and odd watery vistas all the way from Broad Channel to Far Rockaway. The train travels on a causeway past sleepy fishing villages and wood frame houses, and it’s all ducks and geese until the train reaches the far side of the bay, where the dingier bungalows and the housing projects begin. Then, roughly at Frank Avenue station, the Atlantic Ocean pounds past jetties of black rocks, not far from the tracks; and at Mott Avenue is the sprawling two-storey town of Far Rockaway, with its main street and its slap-happy architecture and its ruins. It looks like its sister-cities in Ohio and Rhode Island, with just enough trees to hide its dullness, and though part of it is in a state of decay, it looks small enough to save.” —Paul Theroux, “Subterranean Gothic”

(for “Visitors,” a new series of photographs taken on the Boston subway)


Plinth (I). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

Plinth (II). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

“Two events drew Kneeshaw’s attention away from the Green Child. One was the death of this father, together with the expanding trade of the mill—the mill absorbed more and more of his time and energy. The other event was less creditable. One summer day he discovered the kitchenmaid asleep in the barn where the hay was kept. She was lying on her back, her limbs open and abandoned. The sudden lust that swept over Kneeshaw met no resistance, and from that time onwards Kneeshaw’s natural desires were completely satisfied by this subordinate member of the household.”—Herbert Read, The Green Child

Pattern of Strings

Warm Sunday Morning. © Chris Bronsk 2014.

“They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away. Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of the abandoned sites, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.”—Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities