This is the story, in verse and vingette of my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey- he described himself as “A poet and professional fig picker”. Always blithe with money, yet paying his way. I found this poem in his “Urban Pentimento” journal, on a laboring job, Godfrey had given the okay for the on site “Port-A- John” be strapped shut, hoisted onto a truck, and driven away, not knowing the boss man was sitting inside…he indeed was adrift, seeking a new job.   

Tonight, I hurried for home in a spring shower, weighted down with sundries. I grabbed a quick coffee to enjoy as the rain eased, leaning on the harbor wall for that first, hot sip. Water had pooled cup’s lid rim, tasting both sweet and cool before the hot, bitter richness…now I knew what Godfrey meant when he muttered about craving rainwater coffee…and watching ships head out. If you dislike coffee, any other hot beverage will do..

Godfrey writes-  Still cold and dark mid April morning. And here I am, adrift in the city. In line at a cafe’ came a sailor clad for foul weather, he spoke softly- said “I can tell by the cuffs of your coat that you come from away”. Indeed so, I replied, are you bound for warmer shores this rainy day?”

When I bid him farewell cup in hand I returned to the street. The first sip I took was of rainwater coffee, I was wet chilled through as the good brew  warmed me …recalled from lost youth a vivid memory.

Rainwater coffee, kneeling in the sand, fire coaxed from damp drift wood, scrape the last grounds out, bottom of the tin. Great, fat rain on hissing twigs, fog bound the sheltered bay I camp in.

Lonely,  concrete  tub entombed city tree, at the bus stop crows perch, check me out with unfiltered cheek, crow curiosity.  Spring rain pours from the nebulous roof, of a decrepit shelter, where sodden religious literature has been scattered, it sweetens the rim of my paper cup of coffee. My coat cuffs worn and tattered in the wearing. I drink rainwater coffee mid the bitter eyed, waiting, shift workers swearing.

My ship, the #50 bus, lurches from the curb, bow on into the storm it pulls away. I close my eyes as we set sail, remember the line squalls, recall the Southern sky at night, and the taste of rainwater coffee in the gale…


KEVIN SLEPT THROUGH IT- The 57th Wisdom of Godfrey

Worzel here- The #50 bus comes along oft in Godfrey’s story- it runs the main city corridor here, he and I rode the bus often, Godfrey considered it a “Microcosim of the whirled”. I saw it as a red and white lozenge dispenser that spewed me out at rides end somewhat tattered round the edges. Only Godfrey could find wisdom on that wayward bus, and he did…

He was industrious for a committed Vagabond, my friend Godfrey, enjoying outdoor work, providing beets were not served or cultivated on the job, he always asked. Thus Godfrey was usually employed places that did not require an interview, and paid cash end of day. This odd, late summer, before heading south, he rode the #50 bus every morning, to join a crew painting a lighthouse.

“We are painting a lighthouse”, he wrote Beatrice. Out on the Fort Rodd Cape, high above the sea, I stand on scaffolding, wind up my kilt and scrape. Every morning Kevin, in same shirt and baggy shorts, (He works with us), races down the sidewalk for the #50 bus. He sleeps all the way, slack jaw agape, no matter how crowded the ride, I give him credit, Kevin sleeps through it.

There is oft loud quarreling about us on the bus one must endure, the smell of Egg breakfast, reek of stale alcohol in excess, riding the bus complaing because your life is a mess, freeloaders begging a ride at the door, in the early morning morass, see Kevin in the third row, oblivious in snore.

There was paint to be mixed, fish to buy on the docks, their were tourists Godfrey spied aground on the rocks. Kevin slept through it.

Kevin slept through the whales and seals passing, below the high lighthouse we were painting, slept till knock off time end of the day, Kevin slept the whole jolting ride from town, slept through Vinnie falling from the lighthouse all the way down. Kevin slept through free pizza on Friday, he slept while old Harry doled out our pay.

Kevin was asleep when old Harry paid him twice- he shared with the rest of us who rode that #50 bus. Kevin once asked of me,” Have you always been a poet?, Godfrey?. .”Indeed yes, I told him, since I was a boy” I have always slept, Kevin replied, a hobby that I truly enjoy”.

Kevin was asleep when the #50 bus, careened off the road suddenly, avoiding stray cattle, hitting lightly up against a tree. Builders tools, potatoes, cold coffee rained down on me, we carried Kevin out unhurt, using my kilt as a stretcher, and set him still asleep in the shade on the dirt.

Years later, Kevin wrote- “Yes, I remember Godfrey, and recall the wisdoms he taught me”. “I slept through my youth, woke on the #50 bus, wearing  lop sided name tag of a greasy hardware store, I awoke at 24. “We were painting a lighthouse, Godfrey insisting there was poetry all about , in the waft of seagull’s wings, the kelp beds at low tide, the morning sun climbing up the lighthouses side..he taught me to look beyond beets to the poetry in all of us, “For in this life we all ride a #50 bus”.

Finally awake, I took pen in hand, and oft am inspired on the path to Fort Rodd Cape, the lighthouse I never painted still stands vigil oer the strait. And warm days for memories sake, will find me napping in its shade, our names can be seen there, etched tiny in the paint, beginning now to fade, Vinny, Teresa, Godfrey, Harry, Kuldeep, Kevin…September, 1983. Although I slept through it, was Godfrey made sure they included me.

THE 57th WISDOM OF GODFREY STATES- We all ride a #50 bus called Earth, we all have a story, this Kevin taught me. “Only the sun and moon and stars can look down and choose to judge us”. For in this life we ride the same #50 bus”.

WHERE DO YOU WRITE?- from Worzel

My last week on Sonsie Farm in Wales- I stood by the sink in Beatrice’s puce cottage, idly from the window watching Adelaide and Benny trundle home from church. Their wagon was loaded with purloined tea-bags, sugar packets, and a stack of discarded “Books of Common Prayer”, presumably to pad the bed of books on which they slept. 

Godfrey would have thought, peace becomes them, I said to Beatrice, as we watched the tiny, old woman direct partner Benny in setting up her ancient, plaid steamer trunk under the plum tree, on a crate. “Pair of Jackdaws”, Beatrice “fehed” over her coffee. “Every Sunday, Adelaide writes letters out there, using the trunk as a desk”. “She has never begged a stamp, or asked me to post one from town, I know she writes to The Queen, but whom else is a mystery”.” The two do not get any mail here”.   

Curious, I strolled outside, knowing neither could resist ginger snaps and coffee, pen and paper were whisked into the trunk, lid slammed, innocent faces looked up. Cookies and coffee were accepted for the joy of dunking. “This is where I write, slurped Adelaide, smiling off down the valley farm’s wafian folds, where do you sit and write?    

Where do I write?   In my old turquoise chair, by the window, looking over the harbor water. No drapes these days, to mar the view, of humanity passing or hide the stars at night. Young persons play guitars and drums till late, their skinny street dogs fetch and play fight. Feet on the radiator, turquoise chair, it’s where I write.

I first learned of “The Bile Room”, in a letter sent from Godfrey. He wrote- “The bilious  walls of our lunch room so inspire me”.” High shelves of books that no one reads, “Quack- Salver” cures for every ill and odd disease”” The daily paper has been used as a place-mat, there are beet stains on the wall, near where someone better paid than me sat. Crawl do ants in the cupboard, rice and crumbs are strewn in plain sight, I bet a co-worker that the sticky, mottled carpet   was once white, see the grubby row of festered smocks, in “The Bile Room’s” vulgar confines, I love to sit and write “.

On the #50 Bus- Ride the main route between James Bay out to Sooke, beware, the windows leak, and the rear doors fail to open, at least once a week. And I recall when Godfrey dropped a quart of soy sauce, it rolled up the aisle of that speeding #50 bus, it shattered on the coin-box, where to ride, one must pay,  bathed in soy sauce, we hopped off before our stop that Tuesday.

Now, from the high Double-Decker, see  out over  vast scrap yards, hooligans throw fertilizer, on the bus from the overpass at night. When it snows the #50 stops six feet out from the curb, on a long commute,  is oft when you’ll see me write.

Windows open on a fine day, air the smells of sick and wee, recently, bus full of day laborers, sweat- tired and dusty, a guide dog snoozed the whole ride, chin on my knee. Work-boot cloddan feet stepped careful over golden paws, her owner riding silent beside me. It seemed all on board complained less about their lot in life, and if they did, griped much more quietly…

Where did Godfrey write?, of course in many a journal, and was twice caught composing verse on the door of a urinal. He wrote in chalk on barge and bridges, sidewalks, sand at low tide, and the steamed up windows of the #50 bus, when it was crowdy and humid inside. He wrote on implements of war, a poem for peace, and it was Godfrey on the Vancouver bound ferry, waiting in line for a snack, changed the letters on the menu board, just within his reach to “Spam Platter”. Disgruntled cook, Miss Mary Wadd had to elbow hungry folks aside, when orders for “Spam Platter” were barked to her.

Peace indeed became us, that Sunday afternoon, Benny sat humming, cleaning tack, Adelaide brought her pens and paper out from the plaid trunk. I took the empty cups and biscuit tin back.  I thank the Universe for all this from my warm bed at night, and give thanks always, I’ve the freedom for to write…