“Mama, look at that man. What is he doing?” There, in the midst of people charging into the crosswalks with iPhones pressed to their cheeks, stood a homeless man, his clothing filthy and tattered, pouring a pile of salt from a cardboard container. With methodical motions, the man poured the white grains in a pattern, building the small pile into a pillar. When he was finished, he placed the salt container on the metal New York Times box then pulled a folded paper out of his trench coat pocket.
Zach turned to me, his eyes wide, a smile forming from ear to ear. “What the!” he whispered before looking back at the man. As people walked by or dashed past him, the man stood resolutely, calmly and proudly, and read what sounded, through the open windows, like a poem – a poem of very few stanzas. The words were melodic yet uninspiring. Something he’d whipped up but whose meaning was deeper for him than for the people flitting by who neither noticed nor heard.
“Why did the man do that with the salt?” Zach asked, relaxing his body toward the table, resuming his cookie consumption with glee.
“You know, sweetie, I’m not sure. It’s possible that pouring salt is something he needed to do to be ready for his next task.”
“What do you mean?” Zach scrunched his face.
“I mean sometimes we have to do other things, things that make no sense to anyone else, in order to prepare for what’s coming next. In other words, the man grounded himself by pouring the salt in a pile.”
“That makes no sense."
“Not to us maybe. But it does to him. Perhaps his poetry wouldn’t sound the same without that sort of superstitious movement before hand. Does that make sense?”