Our Colorful Characters: A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time
there was a man who sat all day
on the corner of Belmont Street
and the crosstown highway.  He
was named Nathan and had no legs.

People used to smile at Nathan
as they made the turn from the exit ramp
by his corner and he waved at every car.
Then, after a while,
he wasn’t there. 

Once upon a time
there was a man named the Whistler
who walked all around town
and into the surrounding suburbs.
When you drove by him and honked

he’d whistle back, the loudest whistle
anyone had ever heard, and never
the same whistle twice.  Never stuck his hands
in his mouth either, never broke stride,
and then he vanished.

Once upon a time
there was a very old woman in Main South
who always dressed in white and always wore
thick white makeup on her face.
Everyone thought she was a hooker

but she used to minister to the working girls
instead, giving them food and money
when they needed it, first aid when they
needed it as they seemed to so often,
and then she disappeared.

Once upon a time
we used to know all our vagabonds.
We figured they had homes somewhere
and came out to keep the city colorful.
Now we see so many

it’s harder to keep track of them.
They wear signs that say “Homeless Vet”
or “God Bless You,” but we don’t know their stories
or rather we don’t make them up
the way we used to make up stories

about Nathan and The Whistler
and the White Lady, stories
we assumed had a beginning
that started with “Once upon a time,”
included the phrase

“there but for the grace of God,”
and we didn’t bother to create much more
background or development
for any of them, preferring to simply say,
“and they lived happily ever after.”

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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