Free Write Friday from Kellie Elmore at kellieelmore.com
One of the talented bloggers I follow is this lovely lady, who always manages to prod my muse. I do not always follow her so diligently, I confess, but every now and then the girl hits a pop fly in my corner and I go running with the glove (pardon the soft ball metaphor).
So when I checked my inbox today and saw this latest Free Write Friday image prompt I was shocked right down to my boot heels. A very good friend of mine, a brother and a mentor for over 16 years, was a homeless man who lived in a tent outside of town. A rascal and a wise man, a lost soul of surpassing beauty and sorrow. I will call him Mike, as he never wants his name or photo on the internet and I respect his wishes, but he looks exactly like this man in the photo.
Always with a walking stick and a backpack full of beer and beef jerky, sitting hunched on his favorite park bench against the wind, rolling cheap tobacco into a twisted lumpy cigarette with yellow fingers. Pale blue eyes always with a wrinkle in the corners where his smile was lurking, one puff away from an unbelievable fish story. “Hey squirt,” He says with a grin as I approach. “Bum a dollar?” This is the first thing he ever said to me, and now a running joke.
I now live 2,500 miles from my dear “Mike” but I think of him often. This picture reminds me of his rough laughter, the long days in the shade at the river talking about life and love, all those long nights in the grass at the park, looking for U.F.O’s in the sky. He does not own a cell phone (adamantly refuses) and has no P.O. box for me to fill with letters, so all I can do is send long distance love when I think of him, and ask after his health when I have a mutual friend on the line. I miss him dearly.
So to honor his great friendship and his mighty heart, I am re-posting a poem I wrote about the last time we saw each other. Once again Kellie, thank you for bringing to me these wonderful memories.
Bare bulbs illuminate cigarette ash scattered on plywood floors,
Steel reserve in his spine, and in the sweaty can on the table before him,
Painting it’s own ring in the collage of colored circles on un-laqured pine,
As waxes and wanes the tides of a circular conversation, in eye contact,
Always drifting back upstream, into eddies of the past, wry smiles abound,
Years stack up behind us like fire wood and we burn them up when we get cold,
Warming our hands on the banked coals of memory, laughing only in hindsight,
Outside thin window panes, rain is pounding and winds are blustering,
He laughs and coughs to a rhythm on the radio, nodding his head to rock n roll,
“Do you know this song? Written before you were born, probably. Know who this is?”
“Rod Stewart, the song is “Angel”. One of my favorites. Of course I know it.”
“Hell yeah, good job Grasshopper!” Smiles, no longer sour ones, dance with dust motes,
He sways in a smokey beat, relighting his hand rolled smoke for the umpteenth time,
So many miles did our shoes walk the same roads, he is clear to me as my mirror’s reflection,
Those trinkets that tinkle on his pack, shuffling tread, the tap of a new walking stick,
Blue watery eyes, like a mountain stream they chuckle, mischief lurking and grinning,
“Friendship is hard… Scary.” He mutters into his beard, I know what he is saying,
He looks at me earnestly and genuinely ”I love you.” My gaze is steady “I love you too.”
We have always given our hands, our faith, to others who did not reciprocate,
Who did not see the beauty we offered, and we bear scars to show their passage,
But his calloused heart has always welcomed mine, given a soft landing when I fell,
And this mountain soil is hard, scattered with stone, pitfalls appear in innocent fern groves,
There in a drafty corner of the room, where we sit amid that austerity of necessity,
A mattress lay limply like road kill, like dreams discarded in passing, on wayward paths,
“You can sleep there if you like Grasshopper, nobody will bother you there” He nods at the rain,
Smiling, I offer him a beer, and we begin to argue about Bob Dylan and my work jacket,
It is decided that I am a ‘rainy day woman’ and this is punny, it is spontaneous and,
I suppose you really had to be there, to feel the humor of it all…