Sidewalk Conversations (audio poems)

Last week’s post, a poetic story of a lady who learned to embrace admiration, was (mostly) fictional. In this post, I share two true tales of conversations I had with two men, separated by ten years and over 100 miles. Both conversations were brief, but each taught me the value of being aware, of listening, and of releasing judgment and leading with compassion.

Rucksack Artist – Audio Poem
Rucksack Artist
I woke this morning, cozy and warm,
the first hint of chill in the air,
following a rare desert rain.
For reasons I cannot explain,
my thoughts turned to the man
standing on a street corner
in the winter of 2016.
We spoke only once, he and I,
but our brief conversation
impacted my life.

Just inches from each other,
I could smell toil, sweat, and sin
pouring from his leathered skin –
the distant world that he bathed in.
His luxury, my given, a trace scent
of the shower I had that morning.
I was told, it was best to blend –
My finger without its wedding ring.
My face natural, bare cheeks and lips.
My body and head covered in dark knit.
My hands protected with warm mitts.

Standing next to me and clutching his bike,
wearing worn shoes and a rucksack on his back,
he told me his name. Alex is what he said.
He then told me about his morning routine –
quickly packing his few, but precious things,
before beginning another day of endless searching.

We looked into each other’s eyes.
He, not much taller than me,
guarded and unsure, but with each word,
more of his painful story he did purge.
Excitement did overtake his being,
then he knelt on one knee,
and with his hands, weathered but free,
he opened his pack and retrieved
a stack of papers that he was eager to share,
with a stranger who seemed to care.

I watched as he spread his life’s treasure
across the dead-end sidewalk.
His creations drawn with a pencil discarded,
whatever he could find,
whatever someone could spare.
Watching his enthusiasm extend
from sparked artist’s eyes,
that glistened beneath years
of sadness and trials,
to the ends of his talented
fingers, that brought to life
beauty seen only in his mind’s eye.
The images he created on found sheets
were nowhere to be seen
along the filthy tent-lined streets.

Near my feet,
spread across his makeshift gallery walls,
held in place with quickly found rocks,
sketches drawn with hands free
of his own key,
but carrying the weight of choices
that determined the path
of the man standing close to me.

While tears streamed down my cheeks,
my mind begged, How can this be?
Why aren’t Alex’s artistic masterpieces full-size and on display,
instead of stashed in a rucksack, stained and frayed?


Traveling Professor – Audio Poem
Traveling Professor
It was moving day and I needed to find grub
for my hungry bunch and the movers rushing through.
I grabbed my wallet and headed to a nearby fast-food.
While waiting in line behind red taillights, I saw him.
Close enough to be seen but not too close to be a concern.
A scruffy man sandwiched between a dog on a leash
and a bag busting at the seams.
I watched him, getting lost in the well-loved sheets,
until it was time to move forward in the drive through.
I ordered enough for us and our helpful crew,
then added another bag for the sidewalk drifter
who satisfied his hunger with borrowed words.

I parked, then walked slowly
toward the man still lost in a story.
Arm stretched, I said, These are for you.
He smiled and replied, Oh, thank you.
I asked, What are you reading?
His response was a dissertation, giving me
reason to take a sidewalk seat.
I listened to the brilliant man
describe the plot with more passion and energy
than any professor I have paid to see.
We talked for a while then I ended our chat,
not by choice, but I needed to feed
the getting hungrier bunch.

As I walked back to my parked truck,
my brain was swimming, grasping for an answer
to the questions,
Why is this man surrounded by tires and trash,
instead of his own library of books, shelved and stacked?
Why is this man not teaching to lecture halls, packed?

Thanks for stopping by.
Be well and enjoy your day.
💗 Michele

Post Photos: Borrowed from Pixabay on Pexels ~ No camera on those days 🙂

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

30 thoughts on “Sidewalk Conversations (audio poems)

    1. Thanks dear friend. 💖 I thought of Alex a few days ago, like my poem describes and then remembered the other man, the “professor.” Maybe it was waking in a warm bed on a cold morning that reminded me of people who don’t have that luxury. I don’t know, but I do know that spending a day Downtown (near Madison and 12th Ave.) opened my eyes and heart to the plight of homeless people living in Phoenix. A complicated issue and a situation that people come to for a variety of reasons, but it is hard to understand why we don’t have more answers. I appreciate the people who devote their lives to our overlooked citizens, who need assistance and a listen on more than just one day. 💞

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    1. Thank you, KD. 🙏🏼 Important questions that may continue to be asked as long as there are people living, but I hope not. A complicated issue with many layers. When I was in Oregon a few weeks ago, I witnessed a homeless man be administered Narcan outside of the store where my daughter was running an errand. Sad and sadly too routine on many city streets. 😭 💔

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    1. Thank you Ben. I take your real comment to heart. 😀 My heart goes out to those without a home. I know there are just as many stories as there are people who find themselves in these situations. I know homelessness is complicated, but it sure seems like a solvable situation, or at the very least there must be better solutions than people living in cardboard boxes along city streets. I just clicked on your link, it looks inspiring. Will read more. 🙏🏼

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    1. Thanks A.S. 💐 I was unsure about what to expect before spending a day in downtown Phoenix, in the most heavily populated homeless area, but I am glad I went and was present for people, listening and showing compassion, even if for only a day. The hard part was leaving and feeling a sense of helplessness over the desperation many were/are dealing with. The situation might be worse now, not better, but I do hope to go again.

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      1. So many stories I heard during the day when I met Alex, but he and his drawings left an indelible impression on me. He mentioned he was going to the library to make copies of his prints in hopes to sell them. Of course, that takes some change too, that he did not have. I was advised to not give cash to anyone, so all I could do was wish him well. 😢
        🤗 to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, Michele, I am moved by these poems and these portraits of two beautiful street people. People who you chose to see as people and understand. Lovely. I hope you will post this in our FB group. Your gift for photography make these stories even more real–and moving. Much love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you beautiful author friend. I am happy to have remembered these two men and write about them. I will be happy to share on FB later today. 😊 Thanks about photo compliments. 🥰 I wish I had photos from these two conversations, but these were taken by another photographer. I do need to spend a weekend downtown getting some urban photos. 🌃

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  2. Life is a film and difficult roles are given to Better actors , as a critic and observer of life you could spot brilliance of these two well defined Characters of the film and described very honestly with your fine voice . love all.

    Liked by 1 person

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