The bushman of Brentwood

Driving down San Vicente in Brentwood yesterday, lodged in the usual backwash of traffic. Saw this guy standing in the street, waving at the cars, a cardboard sign held aloft. No one looked, no one stopped. Nothing new. Except there was: "POETRY TO GO" the sign said. And the guy, tall and bearded, in his 60s, was smiling, gleeful, even. I went around the block, wound through some magnificent streets with magnificent houses - no one hungry behind those walls - and back toward the poet. Still there. Pulled over in a red zone, cars honking, pedestrians grinning. Gave the poet a dollar and he gave me a poem. "Ballad of a Bushman," by Wendell Brown. Copyrighted.

"You're pretty," he said. "So are you," I told him, and he was, this genuine joy coming off him.

The poem's about his service in Viet Nam, being homeless, living in the bushes, being lonely. ("But wait, I say, don't pity me/I have the mountains and the sea./I've watched the cities sprawl and grow,/With 'people boxes' row on row ...")

I'm told Mr. Wendell has been plying his trade there in Brentwood for the last 15 years. And I can't help wonder what he can buy with that measly dollar.

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