There’s nothing like a poet when your mood teeters on ineffability.
Let’s say you’ve fallen in love. Or maybe you’ve fallen off a barstool. Whatever.
The point is, your meager vocabulary and clunky syntax are simply out of their league when it comes to indescribable-ness.
Am I right?
If you were on Big Horn Drive in Colorado last Friday and in need of a beyond-words explication of your innermost sublimity, boy, were you in luck!
A traveling poet, songwriter and breakfast cook by the name of Jeremy M. Brownlowe was on hand to peer into the shadow of ambiguity, and hang some words on your situation here on Earth.
Jeremy has been traveling about the country in his Hyundai for two months, tapping out verse for passersby on an olive-green Smith Corona Silent Super (circa 1958).
He’s set up his folding table on sidewalks from Tucson, Ariz., to New York City and beyond, displaying a handwritten sign with a simple suggestion: “Give me a word … I’ll give you a Poem.”
Jeremy’s a little sketchy on why he traded a perfectly respectable job cooking the breakfast buffet at a Portland, Ore., health food store for the open road. Something about a life transition.
“I just really needed to take a really long drive,” said Jeremy, chuckling.
“I just wanted to shake up the story of my life, in a way.”
One of Jeremy’s street poems takes about four minutes to be born. Talk about a deadline.
He’ll accept a word, get a feel for his audience, then bend his head toward the keys and begin to type.
People seem pleased with the result.
“It’s a collaboration between me and whoever approaches me,” he said.
“They give me a word or a subject, then I muse upon that and give them an original poem within 3 to 5 minutes.”
People pay what they can, usually somewhere between $5 and $20. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it seems to be getting Jeremy where he’s going.
“This is how I make my way to the next town and meet people,” he said.
Pedestrians offer mostly positive, open-ended words, like “voyage,” “silence,” “seed” and “passion.”
Since I’m a troublemaker and want to trip him up, I offer the word “betrayal.”
Jeremy bends his head and types.
A truck rumbles past us. Some guy pulling a rolling suitcase asks me for directions. Jeremy keeps his eyes on the faraway black, and types.
Before long he looks up and says, “I’m really glad you gave me this word,” then bends to tap out some more.
Here’s what he gave me back:
The act that sends our heart
Wondering why we were
Away from trust.
Our insides curl
With silent screams
Imagining poison spilling
From our lips
And fists pounding into doors
Hoping to break through
The gates of revenge.
But there is no victory in this.
To mend our
Is the most noble form
He may be back some time, but by now Jeremy is no doubt back in his Hyundai, or maybe outside some stationery store in Topeka, reminding pedestrians of what they already know but can’t quite say.
Author: Mike de Give
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Author’s Own