New Years Eve, I bought a spatula on my way home, having melted ours down to a knob. Leaning in the cold, looking to the harbor at sunset, I reckoned Godfrey would have considered the spatula, “In keeping with the turning of the year”. The dry, bitter wind had left some rubbish snagged in the sad city tree outside our building…frost rimed threads of plaid wool, warmed by his presence, always with me, spatula in hand I trudged homeward.
This wintery week that shovels out the year, for those who believe things wane and end, in my life signifies the fourth turning of the earth, since I began to tell the story of my friend, the vagabond Godfrey. I felt him sit beside me on the ratty #50 bus, in silence together on my sun warmed worry stone. Tapping on the door of the bathroom, when I really wished to be alone.
Twas Beatrice in Wales, to write encouraged me, said “you, so like Godfrey was full of poetry” My husband of few words fished a scrawled page from the trash, felt of beets, “You express your feelings eloquently”, Why not consider spoken word? “When you are ready, to share the world with Godfrey. Friends rallied, wore plaid as Godfrey always had, came to open mike night, filled the coffee shop seats. Nervous before the crowd I read aloud- “He was an odd young man who disliked beets”
The stories rolled out, people brought beets to the readings, even sewed a lovely beet of wisdom I still wear. We read on the library steps, read in a hailstorm outside in city square. Read to two people in an art gallery, entered a talent contest, deeply missing my vagabond, Godfrey.
It was not held in a place that served Roast Pheasant under Glass, feet in the air, re-heated soup was the main fare. One had to step on wooden crates instead of stairs, to reach the filthy, single loo, and only if you absolutely had to. Part reading room, part thrift store, two ancient pianos, makeshift stage, sound system patched together with spare parts, a proud venue for the performing arts, it was a dive…talent night, three rounds to survive.
Poets and musicians !, four judges called us up to sing and read. A chap sang in the furry costume of a beaver, next a young girl in a grubby, torn red dress. She played and sung of her distant home, and the love she left behind who did deceive her. There was muttering in the group backstage, that but for the dress and her guitar, this young woman was quite on her own. Her bare feet city grimy, she came west hitching and by bus, “seeking that better life”, Sally told us.
The other poets read, an elegy for a cat, an angry rant, a very long pantoum, for the chap dressed as a beaver it was very hot in the room.
The fact that the stage sagged beneath me, made it a challenge to read verse with precarious dignity. The judges, writers all laughed, peering up at me. We made it through to the final round, as did Sally in the torn red dress, who sang so plaintively …I read not to compete, I read from my heart, read one poem of mine, and two written by Godfrey, walked home alone that humid night, in the plaid cape of poetic victory.
Still, oft I look up at posters stuck to poles and notice boards, look for Sally’s name on the entertainment page. Before I could learn her story, she was gone, melted into the city. The girl barefoot in torn red dress, sang and played so well on that old, saggy stage.