Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Downtown Men

by Peter Franklin

They knew more than I, these old ones sitting seemingly
idle on the benches.  Downtown icons…
human slow motion statues.
I didn’t know that when I was younger, for I had a feeling that I knew it all.
And that which I didn’t know, I didn’t know I didn’t know…therefore it was not important to know.

“I remember when” used to make me wince and look for a way out.
Oft repeated stories, tales, memories
were lost on my youthful ears.
I was in too much of a hurry to slow down and listen.  I was too concerned about what was ahead of my next step, and had no interest
in what was behind me.
I moved fast.  They moved slowly.  There was no similarity.
Or so I thought.

The old ones had names that seemed funny to me.
Red.  Skip.  Cleo.  Kenny.  Bud.
Names from another era.
Not mine, therefore, not important.

They had seen wars and hunger.
They had seen slavery and freedom.
They had seen peace and prosperity.
They had seen storms wash away their town, and like tenacious starfish clinging to an exposed reef, they waited until the waters had calmed,
and then patiently rebuilt.

They’re gone now.  The benches are quiet.
No more waves and hellos.
No more nods of acknowledgement.
No more tales of when “things were different.”

The seagulls pretend not to notice, but I know they do.  They would never come this close…out of a certain gull-like reverence.
But that reverence has now gone downtown, too.

Oh, father…Were you sitting on this bench with me now.
I should have asked more questions when I had the chance.

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