Thursday, February 26, 2015

sketching//the stranger in the corner

Photography by my daughter, Sofia


A shaggy white-haired man,  stooped
with age & black leather jacket enters the train

His red cane, flint-scratched & wind-bitten, side steps
the crowd while balancing his uneven gait as one hand

firmly grips a clear plastic bag fluffy of papers-
It looks like trash or maybe treasures, depending on one's

lens.  One young man gives up his seat, while another man
leaps out of the way.   Gallantry is alive, like a lilac, waiting

to slip out.  The old man takes a seat & closes his eyes
His unshaven face, white-inked like well stamped book

slumps in rest, bent to train's rambling duet with wind-
On his lap, he carefully cradles his clear plastic bag like his

guts spilling out for all 
to count 

There's an empty seat beside him
No one takes it, no one comes near.  Time

crumples between my fingers & palm-
A woman in stylish winter coat boards the train

She moves towards the empty seat, but one look at the old man
& she backs off.  She doesn't hide her disdain, swift

as bullet.   The old man's station arrives & he gets out
limping with his cane, while holding on to his plastic bag

Our collective breath is shallow, empty of recoil
& the cracks in our mask move with us

As we speed past blurring tunnels
into a small world


Posted for the D'verse Poets Pub - Pick a line - and get that joust started -
The lines in Italics by Brian Miller's poem, If I Stay
The title is inspired by Claudia Schonfeld, Sketching on Portabello road//the clock//is body-less

34 comments:

  1. Oh Grace.. I think we have all seen that man.. and the contempt.. I could feel how the collective tenseness.. But I like that he was offered a seat at least.

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  2. i was a little relieve to see my line in there...as i was afraid you were writing about me...or a future me...ha...thats ok, i will carry my bag on...and hope to have such a stylish cane too...grins...love all the detail in this grace...made the scene really come alive in my minds eye....

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  3. I really enjoy the story/scene that you've described.

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  4. I can picture this one, Grace; and I feel sorry for the old man. It would definitely be hard to live with such disdain on a regular basis.

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  5. i have seen him clearly through your words... and i'm glad that someone offered him a seat... and the shallow collective breath when he has left...

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  6. You hold a mirror to our callousness and shallowness - the old man is lovingly constructed and held worth except under our gaze.

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  7. Oooh, that's a stunner of a poem - heartfelt, very specifically descriptive, yet universal. These lines especially got to me:
    On his lap, he carefully cradles his clear plastic bag like his
    guts spilling out for all
    to count

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  8. This is a moving poem, Grace, as well as a vivid scene. I like how your portrayed both generosity and callousness. May your words remind us that no one should feel ashamed just for being poor.

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  9. love all the details, Grace... it's also sad how judgmental we can be; shame on those for making the old man feel like an alien... and ooh, I like the photo... kudos to your daughter. smiles

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  10. I appreciated the compassionate lens you used in describing this man, Grace, and the contrast is sharp with the disdainful woman. One day she will be old, too, and that moment will revisit her, only in exactly the opposite way. Meanwhile, I wanted to read the papers in his bag because I can only imagine the stories in there!

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  11. I love this poem, Grace...truly well done.

    " Gallantry is alive, like a lilac, waiting to slip out."

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  12. we just judge the outside too much... wonderful description and storytelling here... i wonder what happened next

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  13. Prejudice takes many forms. Age, poverty, race, gender, faith, ethnicity all become targets and watching people denigrate on these bases is shattering. Your poem paints a picture and shows us how disenfranchised these people can be. Strong poem.

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  14. Sure captured every bit of him. Has to be hard living like that though

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  15. I am nearly already that man, clutching both my battered blue steel cane, & my plastic bag of paper; treasures through my filters, carried to a grandchild, love letters to my deceased wife/mother/son. We rode that train with you; incredible use of the prompt! I liked the line /bent to the train's rambling duet with wind/.

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  16. I really like your line:
    'She doesn't hide her disdain,'
    juxtaposed with Brians:
    '& the cracks in our mask move with us'
    I think it is human nature to judge a book by it's cover, the person by their looks. What a sad reflection on us.

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  17. Grace, so nice of you to stop by. It's been too long. I love the scene you discribed. I can see it play out in my minds eye. We humans with our limitations tend to judge with knee jerk reactions.

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  18. Lovely portrait Grace, of the man and of the people who shun him. And sometimes it sure does feel like a very small world.

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  19. Powerful testament that sometimes manners show when we may not expect it and in equal amounts the ugliness of people's action can't help but spill.

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  20. Grace, you really took us there on the train and I have to say I felt for the man and I wonder how he felt inside to know others looked down on him.

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  21. A very vivid and detailed sketch indeed! And a lovely use of the chosen lines.

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  22. i think Sherry stated it well reflecting my opinion and same curiosity of the papers in that plastic bag. thanks Brian for those lovely lines.
    this piece certainly provides fodder for all to introspect concerning our subdued prejudices and also what a wonderful way to use this platform for inciting our personal insights, Grace. Gracias

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  23. It certainly is a small world not really forgiving. Nasty reaction to an unkempt man is not unexpected!

    Hank

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  24. Thank you for this tender, compassionate story of this man, who could be any of us in the future...

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  25. human nature captured powerfully in this piece. Love the line about trash or treasures, depending on our lens.

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  26. Hey Grace, you also chose a Brian/Claudia type of subject matter--your poem works very well--describes a city scenario for sure. Thanks. k. http://Manicddaily.wordpress.com

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  27. A vivid slice of life. The red cane, slump and bag of guts/treasure all stand out.

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  28. Oh, I've seen this so many times, vividly portrayed.

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  29. "Gallantry is alive, like a lilac, waiting to slip out". I especially love this line. It is amazing to see where Brian and Claudia's lines have stretched the imagination. This is wonderful.

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  30. This is powerfully written. Well done.

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  31. Oh this is so good, Grace. The distance between people squished together on mass transit. I have seen variations of this scene many, many, many times as I make my way around my city.

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  32. Wow..powerful especially the end "as we speed past blurring tunnels into a small world" Sad but true...

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