113. Gray Days

The internet has its faults; you have to be careful since Albert Einstein and Alfred E. Newman could both be setting up websites.

My favorite use of this technology is refreshing my memory on things I already know from a lifetime of inhabiting libraries. The second best thing is stumbling onto questions I didn’t even think to ask.

Not everyone likes that, as an imaginary street person once told me.

These gray people of the street are with us always. We know that some of them are there from hunger, from drugs, or from mental incapacities of various kinds, but others are there for personal reasons we will never understand. I have no difficulty imagining myself among them, had life treated me differently, or had I made other choices.

Come and meet an imaginary friend who doesn’t want our sympathy and doesn’t want us to understand him. He just wants us to drop a coin as we go by.

Gray Days

I had a wife,
I had a child,
I had a job,
I had a house,
I had my friends
and recreations,
And all those things
that made the noise
that filled my head
until I could not think;
And all those things
that crowded me
until I could not breathe.

No more.

Now I sit, gray days, on concrete steps.
When it rains, I go inside.
Passing among the purposeful,
Who bustle, peer, and mutter their impatience;
Among the masters and the fools,
Encased in pasteboard and in cloth.
Bound up; neatly stacked;
Cataloged and categoried.
With icons blazoned on the spine
So the hurried never find
Anything they didn’t want to know.

Once I wrote;

Once I spoke to the multitude.
My name was here
Between Dickinson and Dickens.
My life between two covers.

No more.

I saw my work for sale,
Twenty-five cents, obsolete.
It stood unbought upon the shelf
With tattered War and Peace and Valley of the Dolls.

No matter.

I like it best on gray days, when I can sit
Silent on the steps.
My can proclaims my purpose –
“Give me coin!”
And who, in this great, striving city,
Could ever question me on this,
My silent industry.
All day long the coins rain down;
Nickels, pennies, dimes –
Hardly enough to keep a mouse alive.

No matter.

I did not come to find my fortune,
Only solitude.
And I have found it.
Every face that passes meets my eye;
Furtive, quick,
And quickly looks away.
It is enough.
It’s all I want, and nearly all that I could stand.
Nearly more than I can stand.

Harried woman, children clinging to your skirt,
I understand.
Hurried man, full of worry, I understand.
You have a million dollars paper,
and not one thing to call you own.

I have enough for supper.


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