Man At the Highway

Written for:  Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads – Weekend Mini-Challenge
“Portraiture”  (posted by Kim)
“Write a new poem, or revise an old one, which paints a portrait. It can be of someone you know or have known, a relative or a lover, or it can be a stranger. You could go to a park, café or bar, or even sit on some form of public transport, and observe someone interesting or unusual to portray in a poem, in which you should also speculate a little about their life, their beliefs and relationships, as Heaney does in ‘Docker’.”

There, in the corner, staring at his drink.
The cap juts like a gantry’s crossbeam,
Cowling plated forehead and sledgehead jaw.
Speech is clamped in the lips’ vice.

That fist would dropp a hammer on a Catholic-
Oh yes, that kind of thing could start again;
The only Roman collar he tolerates
Smiles all round his sleek pint of porter.

Mosaic imperatives bang home like rivets;
God is a foreman with certain definite views
Who orders life in shifts of work and leisure.
A factory horn will blare the Resurrection.

He sits, strong and blunt as a Celtic cross,
Clearly used to silence and an armchair:
Tonight the wife and children will be quiet
At slammed door and smoker’s cough in the hall.

~Seamus Heaney


Legless, in a wheelchair,
he is parked at side
of  highway. He is well
-groomed in clean clothes
and wears a cap. Once,
helping others at roadside,
he was run over. There is
not much money for him
to live. Single, not
homeless, he is there
most days. He prays,
a believer who blesses
all that contribute
to his life. Had he once
a wife, children? I think
of him at night, wonder
what he does. I hope
he has friends around him.

About purplepeninportland

I am a freelance poet, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. I live with my husband, John, and two charming rescue dogs–Marion Miller and Murphy. We spent eight lovely years in Portland, OR, but are now back in New York. My goal is to create and share poetry with others who write, or simply enjoy reading poetry. I hope to touch a nerve in you, and feel your sparks as well.
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23 Responses to Man At the Highway

  1. Jim says:

    I’m glad you wrote if him, Sarah. Don’t we often wonder about those alongside the road. Likely in his mind he too would like to be, “He sits, strong and blunt as a Celtic cross.”


  2. kim881 says:

    I love that you’ve chosen to paint a word portrait of a stranger, Sara, and speculated about his life. I should imagine he isn’t noticed by everyone who passes him by, and your poem has made him visible to everyone who reads it.


  3. Helen says:

    Blessed are those who care about, think about, assist people in need.


  4. sanaarizvi says:

    This is heartwrenchingly beautiful, Sara.


  5. Kerry says:

    God is a foreman with certain definite views
    Who orders life in shifts of work and leisure.

    What a wonderful description.


  6. I really love how you have written of that stranger with nothing much left except staying on… so much you can project on a character like that.


  7. Marian says:

    I hope so, too.


  8. I am so glad you “see” him, and write about him do we can see him too.


  9. Tonight the wife and children will be quiet
    At slammed door and smoker’s cough in the hall.

    somehow i can relate to all this but especially the last two lines….bkm


  10. So many of us try hard not to see folks like him. I think it may partially be because we know that sometimes it can take so very little for any of us to find ourselves in similar straights.


  11. Lori says:

    To see one who is often overlooked. And in the end to hope he has friends around him, gives not just a sense of seeing but a sense of kinship.


  12. I, too, hope he is not alone. I hope that some of us stop to give him a hand when we can. I hope that his hope is filled.


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