Wednesday, September 24, 2008


A beautiful sunny afternoon, the usual busy sidewalk along Broadway in the 80s [Upper West Side for those no familiar]. Two women, possibly in their 70s or early 80s, slender, nicely dressed and made up, hair coiffed, one clearly helping the other by holding her arm as they walked. I walk toward them and casually looking at people as I always do. The invalid lady looked directly at me and held out a her free hand. She had probably had a stroke, she could only say "ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta..." and said it over and over and over.

I felt she thought she knew me. [I know I have a prototype appearance, i.e., there are a lot of people I look somewhat like, as I've been told all my life, "you remind me a lot of --"] So I took her hand and said "Hello." She leaned to kiss my cheek and then my other cheek. I leaned in and let her. She was saying "ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta" the whole time and looked at me as if I were an old friend. "It's nice to see you." I said. I expected her companion [who seemed like a friend or perhaps a sister, not a hired caretaker] to say something in explanation but she didn't. I started to turn away and gave her hand a squeeze, "Enjoy the lovely day." I said and went on. The other woman tugged my "friend" in the direction they were walking.

A number of fleetingly intimate moments seem to happen to me on the streets. Maybe because I am watching the people and not lost in a cell phone conversation or an iPod song. It's not a wonderful poem but here's something I wrote a couple of weeks ago after another encounter, a little less intimate.

He's a bum, a sot, but not a beggar.
I see him almost every morning
sitting on a stoop staring at his feet.
He seems to live nearby.
He seems to be showered and almost clean
in the mornings;
In the afternoon he is asleep
beside his brown bag and empty bottle
curled like a sleeping child on the sidewalk
or in winter on a warm grate by the Subway shop
near the subway entrance, alive but dead to the world.
He had a mother and a father, he may be a vet.
Last week, at 8:30 a.m. as I passed
he looked up. Our eyes met.
I smiled and bobbed my head;
he smiled, the only expression I've ever seen
on his thin, worn face.
Namaste I thought, though I did not tent my hands.
Namaste, the life force within me
salutes the life force within you.
I see you, and you see me.

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