In the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street, where all the
bums come in stinking from the cold,
there was one who had a battered loose-leaf book he used to
scribble in for hours on end.
He wrote with no apparent hesitation, quickly, and with
concentration; his inspiration was inspiring:
you had to look again to realize that he was writing over words that
were already there –
blocks of cursive etched into the softened paper, interspersed with
poems in print he'd pasted in.
I hated to think of the volumes he'd violated to construct his opus,
but I liked him anyway,
especially the way he'd often reach the end, close his work with
weary satisfaction, then open again
and start again: page one, chapter one, his blood-rimmed eyes as
rapt as David's doing psalms.
Reprinted from Good Poems, American Places
edited by Garrison Keillor, Penguin Books, 2011.