Piano Man

A young bearded man sat at a piano in a coffee shop and played it softly and with considerable skill. Two backpacks rested on the floor near him. He exuded the unmistakable vibe of homelessness. It’s pretty easy to recognize these days if you pay attention.

I walked past him and up to the counter to order. I took my coffee to a table that faced the assisted living center where I would visit my dad in half an hour. In his studio, we would discuss current events and some of the poems written by homeless men and women that appear regularly in the weekly newspaper advocating for the homeless. It is my and my dad’s contention that we can learn something valuable about homelessness by reading these poems. I think he’s right although I would like the poets to try some new directions with their thoughts and images. Right now, most of what I read is angry and that really isn’t a great place from which to write poetry.

My coffee tasted scorched. I pulled out my journal and began to write. I found it in no way surprising that a homeless man was tickling the ivories in this establishment. The baristas here have very soft hearts for the homeless people who come in for coffee.

I heard the piano. The man started quietly singing. I stopped writing and listened. The tune was unfamiliar to me. Maybe it was an original. I heard him sing the word “yesterday.” Maybe he had a written a song about parallel universe to The Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

He sang pretty badly, but he was singing nonetheless.

A minute later he stopped, stood up, gathered up his backpacks and shuffled away.