I spotted him as I walked out of Walgreens. Neither very old or very young, short hair, black, and perched on a bicycle, he had that appraising, watchful look you see in people who are about to ask you for spare change. Would he? The guy didn't seem raggedy enough to need it.
He approached and gave me his pitch. Turns out he was selling poetry. He'd run off copies of some verses he'd written, and he was taking donations for them.
OK, that was kind of cool. A novel approach to panhandling or marketing or possibly both.
He pulled out one of the poems, entitled "Joy," and began reciting.
I can't remember any of it verbatim. Something along the lines of, "Joy is the opposite of pain / (something something something) rain." Basically a greeting card, only longer and more simplistic.
So I had two choices. Give the guy a dollar to make him feel good about his bad rhyming poetry, or be an asshole and say no.
I'm an asshole. I made declining noises. He ignored them and pulled out another poem. I had to cut in before he started reciting again. After more polite declining noises from me, he asked if I'd like to make a contribution. I shook my head.
He kind of pulled into himself, looked downward, and didn't say anything else.
Part of me felt guilty. The compassionate and human thing would have been to ignore the quality of his work. Maybe he really needed that money. Even if not, it hurts when someone rejects your heartfelt creative efforts. I know how it is.
The other part of me was irritated. I hawk Cinder Bridge music at every gig we play. Most people pass. I don't give them guilt trips when they do.
Wonder what would have happened if I'd offered to exchange our CD for his poems.