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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 3, September 2012

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Ferris Gilli
Marietta, Georgia, USA


The Gift

We exit the zoo through a shady lot, where a gust stirs through maple leaves. It’s past closing time, and the area appears deserted—until we hear the wails—a slow, bluesy tune as lonesome as a midnight train. The notes, so unexpected and pure, I have to catch my breath. We approach the busker, who could be sixty, seventy, or more. The story woven with his music is older. He’s tall and stick-thin, and so engrossed he could be playing for only himself and the creatures behind foot-thick glass and stone walls. His brown loafers, khaki trousers, and white, long-sleeved dress shirt, buttoned to the collar, seem the perfect attire. A small plastic bowl sits on the ground next to his gig bag, empty except for the smooth stone that weights it. I shiver when a sound far different from that issuing from his instrument informs me that he's not the only performer here. The trees are full of voices.

cicadas’ crescendo
with the southern wind
hot, wild scents
from camouflaged cages
join the peacock’s howl

My grandchildren stare, slack-jawed and silent. Surely if the artist drifts away with his mesmerizing riffs, they will trail behind him . . . and I’ll follow. My grandson is too shy to put money into the bowl, so I offer the musician some bills. I feel the warmth of his hand as it brushes mine with a slight tremble. I look into his dark, weathered face and tell him that his music is wonderful.

This extraordinary soul who must have hundreds, thousands of stories to tell, looks right into me for a moment before replying with a brief nod. “I thank you, ma’am.” Then he resumes playing, while the children and I walk on.

lost dreams flicker
in the sax man’s eyes
something kindled
fading with the light
as a lion calls down dusk

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