Today, my return to shining good health is matched watt for watt by a hearty winter sun. Both incandescent, ready for change. Strong. The renewal of the New Year met a roadblock or two, was delayed, delayed again, the delay constantly looping. Today, creativity is back, and with it hope; they are both resplendent. I’ve re-imagined the way forward, a sturdy path with many forks. It’s beautiful.
Excuse me, but I’ve been holed up in the 19th century for the last few days. Time flies when your nose is in a book (or two). Close the cover and, wham, it is 2012 again. How did that happen? Where are the Shelleys, the Hunts, Keats, Byron? They were here just ten minutes ago. Their laughter hangs in the air, lilting and vaporous. I wish they had been able to stay longer; I enjoyed the discourse, the flinging of ideas, their beautiful and weighty words. Emily, too, slipped off when I wasn’t looking. She cannot be shackled, or fully understood. She is the elusive one. The great riddle. Why am I annoyed? They were selfish, demanding my time when it wasn’t healthy to give: develop monomania, or go home! was their request. It is always the same with them. Nothing ever changes. They aren’t very romantic-never were-but they are sirens, alluring as they lure you away from workaday life. They left, and do not linger. Out of the moment, through the fire, and I am not affected at all. I like it that way. Back in reality, refreshed, I can write again.
I met Allen Ginsberg today. Thirty year old, Howl-era Ginsberg. Pre-beard, lean-faced, second-hand button down shirt and wrinkly chinos Ginsberg. Passionate, open, distilled, intellectual. Chatty, with a beatific smile. Slight yet strong, like a controlled exhalation. He didn’t seem to know who he was, the great Ginsberg unaware of his greatness. How could that happen? Modesty is not one of his virtues. There’s a sturdy ego beneath that skull, that nose, those glasses. He was there, but not there. Present yet absent. The voice, the words, the attitude-all off. Wrong. He was fading, chimerical. If I blinked one more time, would he be gone, disappear into nothing, recede into my brain cells? No, he was still there. Moving to the door, thanking me. Thanking me for the package carried in his hand. Only now his shirt was too smooth, the chinos too crisp, the shoes too smart. The accent was all wrong, there was no poetical thought behind the eyes. Just a nice man, polite. Grateful. Gone. Gone, with his casual canniness worn like smooth skin, neither pondered nor known.
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.
My husband has the flu. Although he mock-whines when sick, in a pleading little boy voice, he doesn’t need my help now: he’s snoring, sleeping contentedly by my side. The dogs are at his feet, murmurs from their canine dreams occasionally breaking free: they are warm, happy. I’m on my back, staring at the too-blue sky that is flaunting itself through the carelessly closed blinds. Clouds are spinning past the electrical wires; faded brown squirrels are on the march. I swear I heard a bird chirp. I have important things to write, a shower to take, tea to brew. It’s 3 o’clock on a Sunday, February has dawned. I’m too satisfied staring at the incandescent sun. It hasn’t been Winter at all.