Much like miracles, signs and portents may reveal themselves more readily to people disposed to look for them. I’m talking about the way certain people, including me, read special significance into everyday events and observations. Blog posts (and poems) get made out of these experiences. Here’s a case in point.
I’m inclined to pick up pennies when I spot them on the pavement. Why not? I drop them in the pocket change box, and the amount adds up until I get around to exchanging it through the sorter at the bank for “real” money.
While walking this morning, I spotted in the street not one penny but a hundred or more. Plus one dime. I picked them all up and weighted my pocket, all the while thinking, What does this mean?? The answer came almost immediately.
A few blocks on, I passed a couple of boys, ages perhaps 11 and 13, loitering on the curb. One shouted, “Can you give us a dollar?” In my head I heard the words Why not? I crossed the street and poured the big handful of pennies into one boy’s palms, with the comment that I had just found them in the street. “You’re lucky!” he said, and I thought to myself, No doubt about that. As I walked away, it occurred to me: Boys this age should be in school at this hour. Should my “largesse” include counseling? I turned around and went back to them. “Isn’t this a school day?” I asked. “Where do you go to school?” They named a school. “And why are you not there?”
The dialog got complicated after that–a story about boys in transit, from state to state, perhaps from one temporary home to the next, where things like school enrollment get neglected and life goes awry in countless other ways. Not picking up on their request to know where I lived, if I had a husband, whether I’d give them a lift, if I had change for a twenty (??), I pointed the boys in the direction of the city bus (enriched with enough pennies to pay the fare) that would take them straight to where they said home was. Then I went on my way, tortured a little with the question of what more I might have done.
I walked away from this microcosm of need feeling a bit guilty. However, as my beloved pointed out when I shared this little report with him, the list of needs we all “walk away from” every day goes on and on and on. I guess I’ll continue to be aware of the signs and portents right in front of my nose, and let go of the rest in the hope that there are enough of us on the planet to pull it all together.
If I were homeless, I’d live under here,
he said, patting the massive flank
of Henry Moore’s Sheep Piece lodged
hugely on the gallery lawn. The two bulks
looming together form an arc, a cove
no wind or shock could ever shake.
Around these solid shapes, in an English field,
a flock once gathered, rubbing a lanolin shine
on the shins of the bronze. The hollow where
those great bellies meet holds off the rain
and, shrouded in fog, the sculpture sucks the cold
into its metal marrow. Curled under there,
lamb or boy could spend the night in peace.
Open to the public now this big embrace
waits for the lost, a permanent address
as kind as any for some wandering soul
who looks each evening for a spot to sleep,
a starlit shelter on the artful green.
Sheep Piece is a sculpture in the Donald Hall Sculpture Park
at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City