[Intermezzo] I’m the Kind of Chick the Bards Wrote About (Okay, not really. But read this anyway.)

The universe, mysterious and impenetrable, stony-faced like a cosmic Buster Keaton, has ensured that my life has two constants; woven like invisible threads, gaining strength with each new pass through the fabric of my days, these two constants have followed me throughout the bulk of my existence. They are: that birds shall die in my presence (no joke, but that’s a story or ten for another time) and that the poets of the people, wild-eyed, shall stop to render my splendid something into verse.

To put the latter into blunt, prosaic prose: dudes stop me and shout or caress off-the-cuff poems in my honor. Crazy, right? Not at all. I’m no Samantha Brick, so put down that verbal projectile and hear me out. It has nothing to do with beauty or my perception of my attractiveness. I just have a legitimately real knack for being in the right place at the wrong time, of regularly crossing paths with the drunk and the crazy and the horny who are blessed with a knack for poetry.

In my time, I’ve met Romeo rappers, shopping bards and homeless street poets. Trying to tap that, make my day better, get money or a sympathetic ear to listen to their problems. Off their meds or high on drugs or life. Wanting some action. Not taking no for an answer, no never, I’ve been forced to hear these ramblings and rhythms and rhymes as they’ve followed me down the street or down the aisle or around the corner. Harmless, mostly. Talented, usually. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that there are a lot of skilled amateur poets roaming the streets and stores of this country. All in it for different reasons, but fame isn’t one of them.

I’ve remembered the corny and the shit-dipped and the (rare) scary encounters, have forgotten most of the in-between ones. Sanity is forgettable, I guess. The homeless bards are my favorite. There are some brilliant people among the forgotten ones, quicker with lines of rhyme than anyone I’ve encountered at an open mic poetry reading. Dignified. They usually seem to have a purpose, even if I don’t know what that purpose is; it’s usually not just for want of a dollar or two (although that is the regular result).The self-proclaimed Poet of The Street, who I encountered two nights ago on the way to a bar for Happy Hour with my best friend, was one such gentleman. Three sentences after hello and it was happening again; two sentences in and I knew that this was different, somehow. I didn’t know why then and I don’t know why now. He was rapid with the rhymes, customized and focused and furiously streaming from his beard enshrouded lips. Quicker and longer than I am accustomed to, effortless.

I’ve no idea why he chose me; anyone walking by would have given him a dollar or two. Maybe it’s that mysterious universe at work again. Instead of a dead bird landing at my feet, I was given a poem by the Poet of the Street. I had no idea what to do with it but this: tell the world that there are geniuses everywhere we look, behind bushes and leaning against doors, sitting across from you on the bus, behind you in line at the coffee shop. If you just learned to look, maybe it would happen to you, too. Then you would see.

A Year in Books/Day 124: By Permission of Heaven

  • Title: By Permission of Heaven The True Story of the Great Fire of London
  • Author: Adrian Tinniswood
  • Year Published: 2003 (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group)
  • Year Purchased: 2005
  • Source: The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio
  • About: London was devastated by a fire on 2 September, 1666. By Permission of Heaven chronicles the confusion, terror and panic that befell the city’s inhabitants during the fire and its aftermath. He continues the story through the re-building that set the stage for the modern London that we know today. It’s riveting, nail-biting, human history at its best. I’ve written several times about the challenge of making history seem alive, present and tactile for readers. Fear not, because Tinniswood is a master. Challenge achieved.
  • Motivation: I’m an Anglophile and I particularly love the history of London. I’m weird that way.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 43: “At some point Hanna was badly burned. But she managed to scramble to safety along the eaves with her father. They were followed by the manservant. Only the maid was left in the house, too frightened of heights, or too confused by the noise and the smoke to escape. As the easterly gales whipped across the rooftops, she died there–the first victim of the Great Fire of London. No one even knows her name.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9