In keeping with a father-daughter tradition, this morning my dad and I went to the Westside Market to buy things that most of America would consider the gory bits of animals, but we in Cleveland call food. Saturday morning trips like this are one of my better childhood memories with my father, even if they are also the reason I wear glasses and need an inhaler (a story for another time).
Anyway, outside the produce sections of the market there is always a man or woman selling a newspaper, whose name I can’t remember right now, that gives its money to the homeless. My father of course would never buy the paper, as wouldn’t most people who shop there. Hell, neither would I, but this time he wasn’t the only one there.
On the way out of the square there sat a sixty something black man on an overturned crate, playing “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” on the saxophone. In front of him, to collect any possible change he might get for playing, stood his prosthetic leg.
Now, seeing as my father is a republican and a bit of a racist, he didn’t give the guy a second look. And seeing as I was with my father, and thusly didn’t bring any money of my own with me, I couldn’t give the guy anything. I felt a little better when I heard him shout “thank you,” between notes on his sax, to two women who gave him bills of some kind.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him since I saw him though, with the bare plastic calf the color of crayola’s “flesh” crayon, attached to a walmart tennis shoe. It made me think of the statistic shouted in Andrea Gibson’s poem “For Eli”:
One-third of the homeless men in this country are veterans,
and we have the nerve to Support Our Troops
with pretty yellow ribbons
while giving nothing but dirty looks to their outstretched hands.
Who knows what this guy’s been through. Had I been alone I would have loved to have a conversation with him, but I wasn’t.