Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Poets in town

by Claudia Rey

In this warm evening summer - before the real heat strikes - it's pleasant to walk back home after a movie. In the main square a pop concert is about to start an the players tune their instruments. My friend and I stroll  under the arcades, humming to a softer music coming from a CD player. There's a guy there, holding a big puppet in his arm - he has slipped his hand in the puppet's bigger, rubber-foam one and waves to passers-by. The CD player is on the pavement at his feet, along with a piece of black velvet scattered with coins and a basket full of small parchment-like paper rolls. A sign attached to the basket reads CHOOSE A POEM.

I stop. Of course I want a poem!

The guy smiles at me. "Would you like José to choose one for you?" he asks nodding to his friend.

"Oh yes, please!" I say.

José bends and retrieves a poem, and the guy offers to read it aloud. It's a verse by Fernando Pessoa, and the guy is clearly Portuguese. So I tell him the only two Portuguese words I know, Muito obrigada.

"Ah, meu idioma!" sighs José dramatically bringing its big hand to its heart. Then it whispers something to the man's ear. "Now he would like a kiss" translates the guy.

Why not, I think, kissing the rubber cheek. José smells faintly of moth-balls, but I tell to myself that poets deserve some affection and a material reward as well. I put some coins on the black cloth.

"Obrigado" says the guy. "Poetry has no price, but we have to eat from time to time." I smile again and off I go holding my precious little poem.

My friend looks at me shaking her head and laughing. "So very like you" she tells me. Behind our backs the guitar music has changed and Carlos Jobim now sings THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA. I know it's not for me, but oh, how flattering.

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