a writer on the street corner

by dm gillis

Is it peace to know that gravity will break you, and that you will fall like rain?

It wasn’t really a street corner thought, but he was on a street corner thinking it, nonetheless. On a street corner with his hat held out, just short of the ice wind blowing beyond the shelter of his doorway.

“Spare change?” he said, to determined people passing.

He was a ruin, he knew. Why should anyone acknowledge him, and toss a coin? He’d be an artefact if found in a jungle, barely identifiable, catalogued and placed in a wooden box. And he was a derelict in this living city. A once stout building, he could say, perhaps of industry. Concrete in his way, wet empty open floors and broken windows.

He often recalled his youth, while on street corners, no reason to beg except for drink. Begging was a vocation, mostly comprised of recesses, separations like mediations. No counting his breaths, however, to achieve his cosmic consciousness. Instead he found transcendence through counting defeats, and by holding other moments in the palm of his bent hand.

Youth had been the greatest of his times. Adolescence with its rage, and its stink of beer and adrenaline. It was black and white now, projected poorly edited and flickering onto a screen in its dim theatre.

Cursed with voice, a pen had been thrust into his hand by frantic mentors — fear not the sentence, nor its subordinate clause. But he’d feared both, and was broken by Joyce, Proust and Hemmingway. And having dropped the pen, he’d walked away, and the years passed fast as verbs.

“Spare change?”

But there had been one story, written in a long summer ago, in a time of thorny joy. The sea hadn’t been far away, and he walked in the wind and saw women breeze-blown with their children crouching over small crabs and shells on the shore. The children in muck, with smiles looking into the sun, which they were forbidden to do. And there were seagulls too, so unhunted a bird that there seemed to be millions, all calling at once.

His story had been about a ship, anchored in the bay. Its lights at night reflected long on the water, each on its shore-bound trajectory, stopping just short. Untouchable colours, like fingers ready on a hand preparing to grasp the seawall.

And yes, there were lovers. The moon and the fog. A brief affair, thought to be over by dawn. But the moon returned the following night, sad and smaller, to find the fog had vanished, having made promises, but leaving no word.

“Spare change?”

There had been at least one poem, as well.

I left you in my drawer
of forgotten monsters…

It had unfolded from there. The stanzas, sedimentary. A ghost in a drawer. All ghost were stories. Rough iron nails in relic jars, rattling when the wine was gone.

His shoes were sail canvas, torn and wet, and he stood over the ship’s bottomless hold.

Peace now that gravity breaks you, and you fall like rain.

“Spare change?”

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