By: (18-year-old) Anna Urquhart
I walk down the Spanish paseo,
look among dazzling fountains
and budding flowers,
hear numerous conversations,
yet understand few.
I see garnished faces.
I hear laughter braided with smiles.
I see hands shake and embrace.
The smooth skin of the polished walk
forever reaches before me.
I wander among the flowery words
and the decorated apparel.
An injured song shuffles off the lips
of a tired, bantam beggar
sitting in the shadows of an olive tree.
His hands are brown and withered.
His hair swallowed by infinite grime.
His raggedy garb blowing
like old men’s bleached beards.
His teeth of yellow corn
flecked with poppy seeds.
His voice as sickening as cats’ squalor.
I am instantly repulsed
and try to slink by.
I stop when I hear this thick, grated voice
singing a mutated hymn of grace.
I pause only feet away
and look at him.
Amid the grime and scum of his costume
there comes a glow.
His eyes, though dimmed by hardship
shine with a hope those around,
who have all that could be desired,
do not possess.
His aria dances among the flowers
along with the diligent bees.
It floats over the fountains
and zigzags with the dragonflies.
It is not beautiful but is undefiled.
It is not the voice of an artist
but of a man
who knows where contentment lies,
whose spirit will not be vanquished,
who patiently, willingly endures.
I look away,
look down at my spotless garments
and my reverently folded hands.
I have known beauty and wealth,
my mind has become mundane.
The sound of the melody drifts away,
rising until the last notes are safely
on their way to heaven.
I see the pauper stand and sway
as if dancing to a celestial strain.
He hobbles down the concourse
Heads in my direction.
I am frozen.
As he rambled by he hoists his eyes to mine,
imparts a smile, and continues on.
I want to stop his leaving
but reverie arrests my action.
I watch the warped shoulders
droop and shift as if the weight of his clothes
might drag him to the ground,
but he continues til I can no longer see him.
I walk to where he
only moments before had been sitting.
I sit by the olive tree
as though by sitting where he had
I might secure some of the serenity
beheld in him.
A breeze wafts by, bringing with it
the sickening stench of my beggar man.
I watch two sparrows chase and flit
after miniature rays of sunlight
as if they know that heaven
has fixed their plight.
I have many times returned
to the place of reverie
never to find my pauper
sitting by that tree.
I know not where that beggar is today
with his unending spirit of assurance.
The light in my eyes has dimmed,
and my passion blurred.
My hymn of grace an unrelenting
descant of complaint.
I yearn to see the eyes of that man.
Eyes to give me assurance,
I crave the sound of his
grating, grace-themed melody
to remind me that
security and contentment
come only with acceptance.
In that accepting do we finally find peace.
The peace of a sparrow pursuing sun beams.
Happy National Poetry Month!
Top image from: pinterest/Marian Durkin