Jan 18, 2009

Emmett McBain III

So, it has been quite some time since I wrote a note with meaning. Basically, instead of writing notes, I've been working, throwing parties (dinner or otherwise), painting, decorating, unpacking, knitting, and injuring myself. I realize now that the reason I haven't written anything is because I had nothing to say. You can't force words to come out of you when they aren't there. Can you?

Well, apparently you can. I'm not forcing them now - but I watched someone force them recently. They weren't expelled out of their brains to paper or a computer screen - but right out of their mouths. They were on the train and trying to sell their art.

The words came out in a monotone, as though they'd been said a billion times, regardless of how forced they were. They were meant as tears perhaps, little drips of sadness rained onto the commuters. The words became grenades midair and missed all of their targets except me. For weeks I've carried the shrapnel.

The man looked like a soldier, a veteran of a war on his life that no boot camp could have prepared him for. He looked as though he had seen unimaginable horrors. Mostly though, he looked beat down.

He stood in one of the entrances to the train car and braced himself with his stance. He almost looked like a gunslinger ready to draw his weapon. He bent over and out of a backpack pulled a folder. Then with his monotone he wept his words. The commuters shielded themselves with the kevlar of indifference. I stood listening, without armor.

He spoke and held out a card that he'd made. The card was filled with poetry that he'd written and he was selling each card for five dollars. When it was clear that no one was going to purchase the card, he sighed and offered a book - home published - for seven dollars. Then he simply offered a single poem for one dollar. No one even blinked.

I would have bought the cards, and the book. It took great courage for this man to stand up on this train and launch his heart at people. I could sense from him that this is not exactly how he'd planned his life. No one grows up thinking that their greatest self is selling their words on a train. He didn't want to just beg for money - so he wrote - and he had something to say. I watched him, and the funny thing was, he wasn't selling his words to me. I was not his target audience apparently because he walked right by me even though I was clutching a dollar in my hand and had tapped him on the shoulder.

This man was trying to break through the kevlar. He was trying to make the indifference disappear. It didn't. He realized that he'd been defeated by what he'd clearly decided was the enemy and returned to get the money that a fellow soldier - another poet - was offering. He thanked me and handed me a sheet of paper. A poem which, with permission I will now share.

* * * * * * * * *

I feel no pain

I feel no pain
I feel no pain
It's not really raining
It's pouring

My love life is boring
Me to tears
And I don't know
What to do about it

It sounds like a song
It's from a song
I don't know how the rest
Of it goes

But then again
I don't really care

I feel no pain
I feel no pain
It's not really raining
It's pouring

I am standing in the rain
I can not feel it
It is too light

A turret of rain water
Passes under and around
My feet
My feet are not wet
Good shoes

I feel no pain
I feel no pain
My pain mechanism
Is burnt out

I feel no pain
I feel no rain
It's not really raining
It's pouring

-Emmett R. McBain III



Michelle said...

I have also seen and bought poetry from Emmett. My sister has seen him as well. Do you think he's becoming a more regular fixture on the trains? There's something about him that is really touching.

Anonymous said...

Leighsa, I never thought anyone gave me as much thought as you did. Sure a couple of people have given me job leads but you actually perhaps without knowing looked in my soul or at my psychi (perhaps not spelled right) but anyway I am flattered that you were touched enough by my poetry to include it on you page which I happen to find by accident googling something for my day (we have the same name except he's jr of course. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me a second or perhaps third thought. PS also touched by Michelle's words

Emmett R. McBain III