Friday, July 08, 2011

Hungry Poet Project II

I’d sit and beg for words a couple hours a time, usually in locations where there was a lot of foot traffic – like the Byward Market and the Glebe or on the fringes of arts and community festivals. I’d come back a few days later a paste a poem near where I’d been sitting – a poem based upon words that had been given to me at that spot.

[you] [are] [Rain]

[I am the Rose of Sharon]

[I dream of you

and] [blush],

(June 7, Glebe Art in the Park)

If they understood what I was asking for, many people were quite happy to ‘spare a word’. Often they’d hold the paper for long minutes, pondering, stroking their chins or gazing off in the distance. They’d write comments about the weather ‘humid’, ‘sunny’ or ‘rain’. They’d reveal pieces of themselves - their faith: ‘God is love’, or lack thereof: ‘delicious ambiguity, or their mood: ‘happy’ or ‘tired’. Sometimes they’d make a comment directed at me.

“Beautiful girl!” wrote an old man with a big belly stretching his faded t-shirt. Then he stood above me, swaying back and forth on his heels.

I looked away and saw a woman approaching, pushing a stroller with a toddler shuffling along beside.
“Can you spare a word,” I asked as they got closer. The baby stared at me with wide, blue eyes. I winked and he ducked his head shyly.

The woman hesitated, then took the outstretched paper. “What’s a word?” she asked her son, squatting down beside him. They always ask the kids. “Can you think of a word to give this lady?”

The kid stared at her with uneasy confusion. It’s an abstract concept for a toddler, so I tried to help him out. “What’s your favourite colour?” I asked.

“Blue,” he mumbled around the thumb jammed between his lips.

“Blue,” repeated his mother triumphantly as she wrote it down. She tore off the sheet with a flourish and handed it to me. She thanked me and began to move off down the sidewalk; the baby’s blue eyes watched me until his stroller blocked the view.

I noticed with relief that the old man had moved on.

Read more:
Hungry Poet Project
Hungry Poet Project III

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