Walter by Michael G. Springer

for Walter Brooks
“He moved among us, as a muttering king, magnificent…”
Wallace Stevens: Sunday Morning
I didn’t know you’d made the paper, Walter,
yesterday, when I saw you walking beside the road
in your long weathered coat, green canteen strapped
across your chest, hair wild in the afternoon sun, tired
eyes in no hurry to see the day come to an end.
Years ago I must have done something right,
shown some kindness toward you, or,
I’d prefer to think, you sensed something
of a kinship with my curious soul.
But unlike most people, you talk to me.
Sober or not, that’s a compliment I can’t describe.
For the thirty years I’ve been in this town
you’ve lived on the streets, talking to it,
hugging it like a pillow in your dreams.
They acknowledged as much in the Gazette this week;
I wish I’d known that when I stopped to pick you up
and give you a ride downtown. Only in a place like this
can one expect such praise and charity of language.
You’ve really outdone yourself.
They didn’t mention, but I’m sure they know
as they know all things, why you’ve come all this way…
the sacrifice you represent. The test that you administer.
They all go to church. They all believe.
They’re all happy to tell you what they think.
So they must know your gypsy tribe
was exiled here to measure kindness.
They must know you rejected all worldly possessions
to fulfill your destiny, like a priest,
or a monk, or an American Indian.
You’ve never asked me for anything, Walter,
but the way you’ve lived taught me.
You climbed up on the cross of poverty
and sailed across dry land. I guess that’s why
some started calling you the Mayor.
The more facetious call you the town crier.
I’ve never seen you cry, Walter, although I’m sure you do,
and I’m confident you want no special distinction for your
service to Mankind. Your reward will come in the next life,
I think you’d tell me, as it does in this one.
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