Various and Sundry Poetry

life lessons from the street musicians

The man playing drums outside the Ferry Building
was not asking for change. Instead, a with a set of earphones
spilling music only he could hear, he kept time
on a makeshift snare, a collection of empty buckets
turned on their heads, little tin pans alongside, and bells
strapped to his feet. A handwritten sign out front spoke of his defiance.
“In these tough times,” it said, “I refuse to accept defeat."
And thus the man carved beats out of the early Saturday morning.
The music did not criticize the economy, or his bad luck
on the job market, or the string of misfortunes getting in the way
of health and fiscal happiness. Instead, it shouted its joy into the air,
punctuating the footsteps of everyone within earshot—
the bright-eyed tourists, sweaty joggers, the wild-haired women
selling cheap jewelry, the homeless, the waitress on her way
to the lunch shift, the meter maid, the fortune teller with her
worn tarot deck, the cab driver punching in his first cup of coffee,
the parents juggling twins in a double-wide stroller, the boy
biting into his first summer peach—the music landed on everything
it touch. And it was impossible not to get swept up, too, to start to believe
I had an equal power to ward off the dissonant assaults of the day.
The man did not see me reach in my pockets, nor did he see
the coins I slid his way, but I understood. This kind of music
requires full attention, and he had to keep playing.
So the song stayed where it was, inside the drummer man,
but the echo his hands made couldn’t contain itself,
its sweet rebellion following me home.