Originally uploaded by mincaye.
This is a 'poem' I dedicate to a man whose name I do not know, whose music I've forgotten, whose presence has left an indelible mark on my soul. Though you have not the vision to read these words, my brother, I know you will, when God makes this world new at his return.
I also dedicate it to Soo Tian (dressed in black in the photo), who drew my attention to the man, whom I would have otherwise passed without much thought.
Echoes in a Pathway
No floodlights filled the hall,
Only dim fluorescent lining a pathway
Drenched in rainwater, and the sweat
Of those hurrying to and from the station.
If not for the ringing of random waves
In the mind of a music-lover,
I might have never known you;
But he did notice, and we paused
In an awkward position, blocking the traffic
At the entrace of the pathway.
No, it wasn't about money, or even your pitiful state.
'Twas the service you rendered
Beyond the call of duty --
No one told you to play
No one hears you play,
For the echoes merely jangle for seconds
In the heads of passersby, never hearts.
Still, you pour out your soul
Into your music;
For music is more than the plucking of strings,
The passage of sound through matter.
Nay, it is when man touches eternity
But for a moment.
The angels sing in heaven,
The angels sing on earth;
And that means music in the slums,
The trash, the alleys where no souls wander
As much as in the concert halls, stadiums
And earplugs of disc-players.
Perhaps you dream of vaporising
With the rain as it hits a heated floor,
To earn that freedom which you so deserve;
Yet you play for a society
That has no place for you.
I once heard that grace is
'A quality of undeserved merit' --
I now think it refers to those times, when
God goes to the poor, blessing them,
While we overconfident bastards
Think we have it made.
So this little community service trip
Was one in which we could not look you in the eye;
But truly, we thank you
For welcoming us into your world,
For your hospitality in those few minutes.
I cannot say that I would like to live there
For there are things even I fear to face;
Yet, given that the alternative is apathy,
Maybe it is better to suffer and live
Than live to suffer.
I think this is what Jesus meant, when he said,
"What profit a man if he loves only those who love him?"
What life is mine, so superficial,
Compared to yours?
For you pour out all you have,
While I merely give of my excess.
You're an unknown celebrity,
Gracing no magazine covers, earning
Only dirty coins and scraps of notes
That people no longer have need for.
But on the walls of heaven,
I think your music plays night and day
For God has this strange way of
Redeeming all glory, especially that which
Man always overlooks.
Our journey is not complete;
In the time when all is made new,
When, in the words of Eliot,
We shall arrive at the beginning and
Know the place for the first time,
Perhaps the music that binds us together
Will step aside for the King to speak.
And the blind will see.
The path will flood.
And the lights will never go dim;
That moment is now, and never.