[Continued from yesterday: Mark, the Tramp]
“Where’s home? You have any family anywhere?” I asked
“I am from Oklahoma City. I was a ward of the court. When I turned 18 they had to let me go and I went on the road. Been on the road ever since. I did find some family. But, it was a bad situation.” He shook his head and looked off into space for a moment. “Yeah, bad. Nothing there for me.”
“How do you get by? What do you do for work? You have a trade? “
“Laborer. No trade. I load trucks. Odd jobs around truck stops. I know how to drive a truck. I’d like to get a CDL (commercial driver’s license). But, that’s a little tricky. I don’t have any ID.”
“I had a birth certificate but I lost it. I don’t have an address so I can’t get a driver’s license. I lost my social security number a long time ago. Now, since 911, you need three forms of ID to replace any ID. It’s a Catch22. I’ll get some Legal Aid sometime and get it sorted out.”
“What do you expect to be doing in ten years?” I wondered whether this was a fair question of a man who lived only in the present.
“Drivin’ a truck,” he said.
“A couple of years ago, when I was traveling,” I said. “ I met a guy something like you. Dean, his name was Dean, just Dean.
He was on a bicycle. I met him in Ocala; you know the National Forest in Florida. Said he’d been on the road since 1974. Dean told me he was staying deep in the woods with a group of drifters, although maybe they were tramps. I drove back in there to see and there were a few cars, a few tents, some tarps, and a ratty trailer. There were a few guitars and a lot of Peace signs.”
“Yeah, well,” Mark said. “I am not really communal. You never know who you are falling in with. You have no idea of their character. You don’t know what they’ve done. Who’s looking for them or why. Or when they did it. Maybe it was two hours ago. You don’t want to be near someone like that when the authorities come and you are there looking like a tramp.”
We fell silent for a bit. My mind was flipping the flapjacks of Americana that Marc had laid on my plate.
A truck rolled in and he ran out to talk to the driver to see if he could get a couple hours of loadin’ or unloadin’. After a quick turn down, he was back.
“Would you like to hear a poem?” he asked. “It is one I wrote long ago when I was trying to sort out a failed relationship. If you like it, maybe it would be worth some change . . . or not.”
I had already decided I was going to slip a Lincoln to him. The poem was an opportunity for him to earn his way and for me to be a patron of the arts for the price of a six-pack.
Mark collected himself and got into “recite” mode. He shifted in his seat and deliberately planted his forearm on the table. His eyes fixed mine; when he assured himself I was attentive, he looked down, his focus darted among three or four fixed spots before him.
He intoned the phrases in a singsong rhythm and emphasized the words that rhymed. He nodded his head side to side or up and down with the beat of the phrases.
After he recited the poem, I gave him five dollars and asked if he’d write it out for me.
It is presented below as written, punctuation, spelling, spacing is as written, exactly:
Written in 1984
“I have read and heard of storys from the day’s of Old——–in which God sent Angels to strengthen men! —Im sure you have heard them told!?
And then — I wonder if He hasent sent one for me!? — for when Im in your presence —- it feels Heavenly.
When I look at you — I almost expect to see wings!—- you know I have heard of these sort of things! —and if it is indeed true, — I would not be in the least bit supprized! —-for I am almost convinced as I look into your eyes! — yes you may just be and Angel — from Heaven! — at least that’s the way it seems!? — for you always appear — in the most Devine of my dreams.”
What struck me was the contrast between his spoken and written command of the language.
A few days later, I showed it to a friend, a woman of the cloth. She saw a lot of emotion in it.
She focused on content and I on form. I like where her mind goes better than mine.