There is a sidewalk poet in my hood.
I live in the Stevens Square neighborhood of South Minneapolis. On my walks there and in bordering Whittier neighborhood I find pieces of his mind—it surely is a man—underfoot. And it must be an older guy, because he writes in white cursive. Cursive, that disappearing, expressive, personal art that many kids don’t learn any more.
You could dismiss these emblems as graffiti, but this artist doesn’t spray, and the style isn’t in-your-face. He works thoughtfully, with a can of paint, dripping or brushing onto the pavement. The paint has texture, and it’s durable, not ephemeral; some emblems have been around for a year. And unlike most graffiti I’m familiar with, the words are more important than the style. Most are phrases, just two or three words, that have an easy, ironic tone: “sunny green skies,” “maybe trust,” “shadow’s shadow.” The phrases aren’t obscene, though some are a little off-color. They suggest transience, rootlessness, fleeting relationships. The placement of the emblems seems to be random, with the poet choosing at most one street on a block.
I don’t share all of the sentiments, or the POV. But I rather like the experience of discovering a thought underfoot as I walk. I only wish the emblems were part of a whole. For a while, I thought if I assembled them, they would make a poem, or at least something with a larger meaning.
(Apologies to Wordsworth)