Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Poet on the Sidewalk

Last week, I walked out of our Public Library's Main Branch and ended up locking eyes with a person squating on the sidewalk. Heavyset, caucasian, puffy-faced, his moustache covering his lips, his clothes were soiled and worn out. He had two small bags to accompany him and a ragged shawl covered his shoulders. Still looking into his smiling eyes, as I was about to pass him, he asked me if I wanted to hear a poem. Surprised, I stopped, nodded reluctantly, and sat down facing him. And before reciting the poem, he told me it was called River.

Heroes are spawned
In the rapids
By the leaping salmon
Of emergency

I was stunned by the poety that tumbled forth. His words forced me to relax. I requested that he recite it once more. He was gracious enough to honor my request. I didn't have to twist his arm and he began telling me a bit about his life. Most important, at some point in his life he decided he wanted to be a poet and since then that's what he's done, surviving by busking. I wanted to kiss his feet but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He reminded me of the wandering bhagats and sufi poets of South Asia, like Kabir and Shah Husain and countless others. I wanted to give him some money but realized I had not a penny on me. I told him so. He was calm and said that's fine. I asked him his name and he said Danny McFarland. Goodluck, Danny!