by Carolin Messier
Every Sunday a pair of poets ply their craft from the edge of the sidewalk, offering single-verse poems on any topic to the neighbors and tourists who stroll the Ballard Farmers’ Market. Your Topic. Your Price. They set up their manual typewriters and work old school, tapping out letters and lines on quarter pages precisely torn from standard 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets. No sketched out drafts. No edits. No spell-check. No corrections. You just give one of them a topic and he goes, riffing on old themes or new ideas, the master of keyboard improv. Then three to fifteen minutes later, depending on how long the wait list is, you’ll receive your custom poem neatly typed. You can see the force of the hammered strokes embossed into the paper, giving this slip a certain weightiness and dignity.
Yes, I said wait list. For poetry. Every time I’ve commissioned a piece from the tapping troubadours, there have been at least a couple of topics listed on a notepad next to the machines that other people had already requested. Sometimes there are close to a dozen. Rather than hover, I leave my poet to his task and head for coffee or cruise the market, letting him know that I’ll return in an hour. He’s never asked me to prepay; I’ve said I’ll return and he trusts that I will. That feels good, the way people should always respect one another. The wait doesn’t bother me. It’s not a text message, something quick and disposable. He’s creating an original piece of art, for me. And I’m glad that he and his brother scribe are well-supported by the community.
When I return in an hour as promised, he pulls the piece for me from a small stack of finished verses, each from a different inspiration, each for a different patron. He reads it aloud to me and I smile. It’s a little quirky. I like his style. The subject I gave him to write about today was “fly fishing”. In return he gave me his urban poet’s vision of something he had only ever imagined, never having even seen a trout stream or held a rod. I hand him a five dollar bill in exchange and feel that we’ve made a fair deal.
This particular poem I commissioned as a gift for a fellow writer and new friend who found one of my stories worthy of wider readership and forwarded it to an editor at WordPress. I’d like to thank that editor, Krista, for choosing The Translation of I Love You and featuring it on Freshly Pressed last Wednesday, October 1st. And I appreciate all of you who took the time to read it and then shared your feelings about it as well as your own very personal stories. I am humbled by the generosity of praise and support my work has been receiving since then. To thank my new friend I wanted to pay it forward and support another artist as he has encouraged and supported me, a writer he knows only by her words on a screen. This one is dedicated to Utahrob.
released upon the waters.
scales of captured bliss.
dinner in the
house of hunters
finds the flesh of
sea farers munchers.