Sunday, 6 July 2014

Artist Unknown

As a child, I was fascinated by a tramp who always sat on the same bench blowing various shaped smoke rings. People would often pause to watch, and then go on their way without even a kind word for the poor man although a flat cap at his feet would fill with a significant number of coins (various denominations, even the occasional note) as the day progressed.  One day, I asked him why he just sat there blowing smoke rings. ‘Because I can,’ he said. But why, a 9 year-old Roger T wanted to know, did people give him money?  ‘Because they can’t,’ he said. Besides, he added with a wry smile, 'They either like or don't like what they see, but pay me anyway.'

It meant nothing to me...then.


Every day for years…
a tramp sat on a wooden bench
on the edge of town, no party to its life,
of smoke and mirrors

Passers-by were privy
to glimpses of have-a-go heroes
for peace and love, war and hate, chasing
smoke and mirrors

Audiences would gather,
see-feel wrong moves and right,
failures and successes, catching them out
in smoke and mirrors 

Smiles and laughter
(public fronts for private truths)
last seen grabbing at defence mechanisms,
all smoke and mirrors 

Every day for years…
Tramp on Bench, a live sculpture
shaping tell-tale coughs and dragging feet
in Smoke and Mirrors

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

[Note: This poem has since been significantly revised since first appearing in the January-June ed.'of CC & D magazine published by Scars (US) 2014. See for the CCand D web page; the poem's original title was 'The Artist' and I am encouraged that feedback suggests some readers l have enjoyed both versions.]

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