Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Busker

image shared from iamachild.wordpress 

My Busker

“I have done my share of busking--
it’s fun until it isn’t.”--Andrew Bird.

I walked out of Winco
              yesterday,         & in the corner of my eye
I saw her
before I heard her, a middle-aged woman
                                       sitting on the sidewalk,
                                       her back to the store,
               wearing a tattered black hoodie
               over a brown plaid shirt, her levis
torn at the knees, 
without make-up, with a prominent nose,
               gray streaks in her stringy
               bobbed dyed-blond tresses,
with piercing green-violet eyes twinkling
behind cat’s eye glasses          that were held together
                                                 with white medical tape, sitting
               on a soiled green couch cushion
               on a colorful Indian blanket, playing
a battered black acoustic guitar        ( poorly ),
               it’s strap of dirty clothes line around her neck,
using a sun-yellow-orange pick
that was cracked at the edges
like her fingernails,        singing BLOWING IN THE WIND
( off-key), both               the instrument & her voice,
accompanied by an old black Pug,
                                       his fur & muzzle mostly
                                       gray-white, who
panted, snorted & howled along with the “music”.

I saw all of this in a glance
while walking to my car
in the rain--that & her open guitar case
                  with four single dollar bills
                               dotting the bright red velveteen innards.

Jesus, lady, where the hell are you from,
& what the hell are you thinking?

I strongly dislike, am disturbed
by panhandlers & beggars, always
                   pulled emotionally
                   in several directions.       But then I stopped,
                    as the rain let up a little. I stood
with my wet naked hands gripping the handle
of the shopping cart tightly, 
my knuckles turning white.       I could still hear her,
                     now singing LADIES OF THE CANYON.
I turned & pushed the cart
back to the store
& paused in front of her.          She smiled up at me
                                         while singing, with a mouthful
                   of bad teeth, as I saw a purple-green bruise
on her left cheek. She looked directly into
                   my eyes, & whatever her story or her 
situation, for that moment I loved her,
                   & she knew it.

I dropped a five dollar bill
into her guitar case just as
three other shoppers stopped
to listen to her, reaching for their spare change.
                     I touched the bill of my ball cap
                     in farewell, & rushed to my SUV,
my cheeks wet with both
shame & pride, 
                  my tears both           salty & sweet
dripping over my smiling lips.

When I got home
I told my wife about this woman,
& she insisted that we drive back there
to support her efforts,
                 but when we arrived, she
                 was already gone. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets MTB

Would your like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Claudia said...

it feels as if you painted her... great description glenn. and glad that you walked back and made her feel you really see her - think that is a bigger blessing than the money actually... we all need to be seen..

Brian Miller said...

wonderful descriptions of her sir....its funny, had a boy that was playing today and went out and played a bit with him...sang...its was funny...and I think it shocked him a bit that a teacher would come out and join in.....

Anonymous said...

You captured that moment so well. Claudia is right - just to make eye contact must have felt wonderful to her. Sounds like you were both blessed.

humbird said...

Nice connection.

annell said...

This happens. I'm glad you followed your feelings with the 5 dollar bill, I know it really helped. I always try to look at those things as opportunities to help someone...I'm sure she needed it. And maybe she ate that day. Such a wonderful piece! And you loved her...

Grace said...

Nice story Glenn ~ I was there with you, listening to her music ~ You are very kind to give her your attention and money ~ She was probably rushing to buy food with the money she collected ~

Mary said...

What a sweet moment this was, Glenn. It is easy to walk right by these panhandlers, I think....thinking things like why don't they get a real job, etc. But it sounds like you made an emotional connection with this woman and saw her in a different sort of way. Maybe it was that purple-green bruise? How very touching that your wife also wanted to support her efforts. Perhaps you will see her again. Maybe not. But perhaps that $5 you gave her made her day. (Coincidentally, the first thing I noticed about your poem was that you used my blog title 'in the corner of my eye' in it. Smiles.)

Gabriella said...

This is a great (real) scene, Glenn. I enjoyed the honesty about your mixed feelings when you see panhandlers. Something I could relate to. This very short connection certainly made a difference in her day. At least you gave her humanity.

Anonymous said...

What a groovy piece- felt like I was right there in the parking lot with you. I always give money to bums both musical and non-musical- it is interesting how some are regular staples of certain corners or parking lots and others appear and disappear rather quickly.

Kate Mia said...

That's such a heart warming and touching story.. and i recently had a similar experience with a group of homeless Vietnam and Iraq Vets.. at boardwalk under crossing of Interstate bridge...

And i love the song Blowing in the Wind.. and forget about it.. and will revisit it on Youtube soon.. now after this prompt for that part of love in music too..

And by the way.. haha.. you must have arrived at my site.. only a few seconds too when i received the notification of your comment.. i had just posted 55 more photos.. with the Fred and Wife Katrina team (namesake of Katie Mia for Katrina Mia) in their dance walking and shopping of the DAY adventure.. with a stop at our marriage counselor office.. who kept our marriage together.. in my visit to REAL HUMAN hell for those five years.. TG..of all that is..:)

janet said...

Glenn, you put me right there with you, feeling the same pull of opposing feelings. I agree with George that you were both blessed. Several years ago at Christmas, there was a young woman standing at the entrance to an upscale mall, with a sign saying she was a mother and needed food for her family. I went home, collected a bunch of food and went to back to give it to her. It was one of the most Christmas-y things of that year.


Anonymous said...

maybe she had a drug habit - maybe she was mentally ill - but at that moment she was absolutely precious.
and the moments are all fleeting.

Beautiful poem Glenn

Anonymous said...

How did Blake put it in his "Marriage of Heaven and Hell"? -- As the eye is form'd, so are its powers." So what we pay attention to is also what attends to us. Taking this wastrel minstrel waif in once then twice then thrice allows the speaker to go three-deep into that nervous divide between the less and more fortunate (for we are only separated a turn of the wheel which could easily reverse our positions. You have sight challenges? So seeing things up close and in detail requires the lens of imagination, a lens you have used to produced such wonderful tales. It couldn't be more than that -- a passing encounter -- and yet it tells so much about who we are and aren't and how we share that rain.

Sumana Roy said...

thanks for sharing the precious moments ....

Justin Lamb said...

The part about the woman singing "Blowin' In The Wind" off-key made me laugh, although this isn't a humorous moment. The fact that her appearance and her eyes had an impact on you shows that you have empathy when needed. It is hard to know which "homeless" people are that way on purpose (to mooch) or if they truly have a rough life. I'm glad you knew that this was a genuine person in need. Well done.

On a side note, you mentioned in a comment on my blog that you live in Sumner. I live up in Snohomish (near Everett, if you're not familiar). Greetings from a fellow Washingtonian. :)

vb holmes said...

It's amazing how, at times, a fleeting image will stay with us and pop into our minds at the most unexpected times (in some cases, accompanied by an ill-defined feeling of guilt or other emotion). Your act of kindness was rewarded by your emotional response to the prompt--a wonderful characterization and story.

Kathy Reed said...

It's called Synchronicity and it's wonderful and I believe it's power can change the world. Homeless people are not on most people's wave link but you gave her a part of your heart today. It's hard to see them anytime but in the rain and cold I want to scoop them up and take them to safety and warmth. I hope you and your wife go back and learn her story. More importantly, a solution to their plight would be the answer. You made her queen for a day.

Margaret said...

…I sat here for a few minutes not knowing how to comment. Kept thinking what would I have done. Wonderfully expressed. May I rise to the occasion next time.

Susan said...

Perfect! I see and hear these images--recognize my self in your actions!

Gail said...

I honestly don't have the words to say how this moved me. A masterpiece of humanity...