Monday, June 28, 2010

If I Had A Hammer

One of the things I love about urban living in general, and our neighborhood in particular, is the phenomenon of finding art and beauty in random places. I want my kids to grow up experiencing the unanticipated joy of a really good subway saxophonist, gorgeous murals on the sides of buildings, streetcorner philosophers, and the like. Our neighborhood offers so much of that richness.

On our corner, within view of Gabby's window, there is a man who sets up every day with a chair, a small folding table, and a manual typewriter. He has a sign that says, "Pick a topic and a price and get a poem." All day he sits there and welcomes all comers, all topics, clackety clack clack, poem after poem.

One day as we were returning home from daycare, Gabby asked, "What is that man doing?"

"He is a poet," I replied. "He will write you a poem about anything you want. What would you like a poem about?"

She thought about it for a minute, knitted her brow and said, "Hammers!"

"Hammers? Really?"


It was getting late, so I said, "Ok, next time we pass by, we'll get you a poem about hammers."

I figured she'd forget. But sure enough, when Atomic passed the poet with her a few days later, she asked, "Daddy, I want a poem about hammers!" And this is what she got:

Looking around the room I saw my family
in pictures and wondered how they got there
as another was put up somehow as
no where could I find the evidence
but a hammer left out now and as I sat and wondered
as my mother did return with one more picture in hand
and in that moment I learned as picking up the hammer
she put a picture up of me and with all the help he
gave I wondered where the hammer's pictures
were hiding.

Lynn Gentry
Haight & Ashbury
June 11, 2010
reprinted with permission

Before this interaction, we didn't even know Lynn's name. We'd nod and say hi when we passed, but we'd never had a conversation. Yet somehow, he managed to sum up so much of us in a little poem about hammers. That's a gift.