“On Jackson Square”
I stand in Jackson’s shadow
and watch the iron-railed Pontalbas dripping.
A summer rain rolling in off the river
has burned into July
and a bum
a homeless dude,
whatever is politically correct these days
returns to his metal bench
beneath twisted branches
of an antique oak tree.
Outside the little park
at the heart of the Square,
a street musician is playing an acoustic version
of“Every Picture Tells a Story”
and I am done with the General.
Walking toward an exit,
probably still harboring a grudge
toward the hat-tipping sonuvabitch,
I pass the bum,
the homeless dude,
whatever he may be these days.
On his left bicep
the Ace of Spades
from a deck of Bee Playing cards is tattooed,
a Screaming Eagle
peeks out from under the sleeve
of a dirty Bourbon Street tourist tee on his right arm
and he speaks softly to my new Pumas:
“Bet ya I can tell yawhurya got dem shoes.
Betcha five bucks
I can tell ya the zact city and state whurya got dem shoes.”
I pause and consider a grammar lesson;
Should I explain the difference between “got” and “have”,
but his eyes refuse to lift and meet mine
so I only smile to myself.
“On my feet,” I say.
His eyes stayed focused on the grass at his feet.
“Shit, Bro, don’t tell no one that.
How I gonna hustle a beer?
You gotta smoke on ya a dude could bum?”
I wished I had a cigarette and said,
“Don’t smoke, Bud.”
He finally looked up,
“Damn the luck,”
He smiled showing good teeth and a scar
running from above his right eye
down to an Indian
or Native American
or whatever’s politically correct these days
He looked back down.
“Betcha I can tell ya the singer’s name
for that white boy music playing cross the fence.”
Hoping for the best, I said,
“Five bucks says you can’t.”
His head came up again flashing that same smile.
“Rod Stewart, Bro, Every Picture Tells a Story.”
I fished in my pockets and handed him a five.
“Damn the luck,”
I grinned as he walked away
the music playing in my ears:
“I couldn't quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats
'cause it's all been said before.
Make the best out of the bad just laugh it off.
You didn't have to come here anyway,
so remember, every picture tells a story don't it...
every picture tells a story; don’t it...
every picture tells a story; don’t it...”
Ron Wallace, is an Oklahoma Native of Choctaw, Cherokee and Osage ancestry and is currently an adjunct professor of English at Southeaster Oklahoma State University is the author of six volumes of poetry.
His work has appeared in Oklahoma Today, Walt’s Corner of The Long Islander, Cross Timbers, Cowboys and Indians Online Magazine, Traveling Music, Sugar Mule, OklahomaEdge, Grandmother Earth and a number of other journals and anthologies.
His books have won the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Best Book of Poetry three times: “I Come from Cowboys... and Indians in 2009, “Oklahoma Cantos” in 2011 and Hanging the Curveball in 2013. He’s also been a finalist in the Oklahoma Book Awards three times with his first book Native Son in 2007, Oklahoma Cantos in 2011 and Cowboys and Cantos in 2013.