I was walking home in the dark of night from the food carts this evening, gazing between my feet and my phone, when I looked up and saw another poetry post (which I just love and think should be in every city in this great nation! *presidential thumb gesture*), like the one I saw with my friend Tom. That one was near Belmont and 60th. This one near 30th and Division. It contained a poem called “Listening,” which someone posted to a blog that is, strangely enough, called “A Year of Being Here” almost a full year ago in 2014. It is a cool website, that I only found by searching for a copy of this poem online in order to share it with you. The website posts poems related to mindfulness, which is a cool theme to work with. I like what she has to say about young children living so naturally in the present and one of the struggles of adulthood being to regain that ability, through practice. The poetry she is posting certainly can help. So–back to the poetry post–I put my phone in my pocket and turned to stand directly in front of the post and stop to read it, because poetry out in the world in one of the few things that can consistently grab my full attention.
“Listening” by William Stafford
After I finished reading the poem, I listened for a brief moment (because, well, I had to) and pretty half-hearted noticed a wind chime somewhere behind me. Then indifferently heard the breeze for about a second. I did not continue walking right away, but I did look down at my phone after almost no effort at listening and, standing in front of the poetry post and facing it, I quickly returned to checking my texts. Just then, too bad for me, my phone ran out of batteries and shut off. I felt a momentary pang of disappointment staring at the screen as the little blue neon samsung oval circled around and then disappeared into the blackness… and then I raised my eyebrows and put the phone in my back pocket. I looked back up at the poem. Then I cocked my head sideways. I listened again.
The breeze blew strong and the wind chimes kicked up again. Then they stopped and somewhere in the distance I heard someone laughing, a carefree kind of joyous and bubbly laugh. Then a helicopter passed overhead. The breeze was gentle and soft in feeling and sound for the remainder of the time that I stood listening, not even strong enough to kick the wind chimes back up. It comforted me and wrapped around me like I soft blanket. So I started to walk again, this time looking around, listening. On a distant corner two people were walking together and I overheard a snippet of their conversation “That is something you shouldn’t take for granted,” one of them said.
Just then I passed a house with a living room full of people and warm soft lighting. One of them was playing guitar and then rest sat in a circle around him as he played, their heads softly tilted at various angles, some resting on hands or knees, likea nativity scene. . When I got home I sat with my roommate and I listened to her talk about her day and her plans and her future. I actually have done a lot of listening today, I realize. I haven’t done much talking at all lately, aside from this post. But I haven’t always been mindful… so that is good to be reminded of. And this concept of listening to far off noises or the ones that are there when it’s quiet and dark. That is something, I think…
Gateway Transit Center
I. Serve and Protect
Reading a book under the streetlamp, pages
glowing in the darkness, the bus stop disappears
completely, draped over with a book-world I have
curtained up around me with my imagination.
A quaint and colorful little house sits nearby with
two book characters in it, talking about the woman
who has gone missing! I read fervently and
the characters move and talk in fast forward just
within my peripheral vision, at the quaint little house
with the bright green grass. Until, A loud crashing clang
of metal on metal makes my head jerk up and my heart
skip a beat. The curtains drop all around me. Dropping
the colorful house, the bright green grass. The tiny characters
in the window. I am sitting cross-legged on dirty concrete,
everything is blue or gray, and dirty, under a street lamp
at the bus stop, breathing in second-hand smoke surrounded
by darkness, with a group of teenagers galloping past
me laughing, one of them swinging a shovel back and forth.
His friend says “You gotta quit that.” I look back down
at my book. Breathing, slowly a bubble of a book-world
forms back around me, a tunnel, with a woman standing
in it, leaning against the inside of it, staring at the blood on
her hands. Maybe she did it! I am not here at the bus stop,
I am there in the tunnel with the concrete mystery, and
characters whose actions and words I sketch out in my bubble,
unthreatened, observing. Until, a switchblade flips open
and the sound makes my book-world pop! There is a bicycle
strangely close to my face, and behind it stands a young man
holding the switchblade. He apologizes for startling me he
explains that he felt concerned about the hoodlums with
the shovel. He said he flipped the switchblade open to
protect me and put his bike in front of my body as a safeguard.
I am confused. I did not feel I was in danger of anything
more than losing my book-world, and feeling embarrassed
and vulnerable, being startled by brash young children,
feeling so powerful out in the world. This young man, too,
feels so powerful as he explains to me the immanent threat
to my well being that he surely throttled with his mere
presence, alertness, authority, and cat-like reflexes. He
follows me onto the bus, when it arrives. He explains
that he looks out for these kinds of things. And then
he starts to tell me about his entire life. His job as a
security guard, how stressful it is to watch out for these
things all the time. His girlfriend from Syria, her parents,
and more about his job. Mostly the job. He talks the entire
bus ride, in fast forward. The bright bus light shining on
his face shows his eyes looking caffeinated and searching.
He checks his phone a lot while he speaks. My book is closed
and I search his face for answers to the mystery. I notice that
he never asks me my name. Or tells me his. I am his character.
The Damsel in Distress. And he is my Comical Superhero,
the kind with real briefs over top. I do not know why he wants
to talk so much to me, without wanting to listen. But I know
that he cares about people. He must. I think. And so must I.
Pulling the cord at my stop , I say “Thank you
for wanting to keep people safe.” Stepping off,
carrying my book back out into the dark.