A Different Kind of Food

This afternoon, I worked an informational booth at Black Expo. It was the last two hours of Expo and the crowds were thinning out. I was bored and hungry. The woman at the booth next to me was munching on nachos. I wanted to wait until after Expo to eat because I had planned on getting Thai food for dinner. But the more my stomach growled, the better her nachos looked. Finally, I caved and asked her where she bought them.

As I set out in the massive labyrinth that is the exhibition hall in the Indianapolis Convention Center, I heard someone call out to me. A handsome, dread-lock-headed man called me over to his booth and handed me a book.

“Read Page 19,” he said. He told me he was a poet and this was his latest book of poetry. I started to read Page 19, but about half-way through it, I thought I might erupt into a mess of tears.

“I can’t read this right now,” I said. “I might cry. I need to read this in the privacy of my own home.”

He smiled at me as I handed him my credit card. I told him I, too, was a writer. He asked what I wrote. I told him about the corporate writing I had done, but that my heart was in creative non-fiction, and this blog. He seemed mildly interested as he signed a copy of his book before handing it back to me.

“Funny, how I was going to buy food for my stomach, but I have received an entirely different type of nourishment,” I told him, after skimming some of his other poems. “This is food for the soul.”

“Listen, here’s my card,” he said. “You call me up and I’ll read this poetry to you over the phone whenever you need it.”

Words escaped me. I thanked him and got back to the task at hand: finding nachos.

When I returned to my booth, there were only a few people left at nearby booths. Most exhibitors had packed up and headed home. Thai food no longer mattered so I sat down, ate my nachos and read my new book of poetry. This time I started at the beginning.

On Page 9, there was a clever poem called, “Help Wanted.”  It was essentially a want-ad — for a woman. The poet listed the characteristics he wanted in a woman: adventurous, sensual, sensitive, spiritual, loving, kind. And further down, these words: well-read, educated, down-to-earth, drug- and disease-free. The more I read the list, the more apparent it became – he was describing me! I laughed to myself as I continued down the list. Unmarried. Check. Positive thinking. Check. Confident. Uhh, mostly. Pork-free. Dang. He got me there. I like my bacon.

I packed up my things and stopped by the poet’s booth before I left. “I would send you my resume, but I eat pork,” I said.

Yes, I did. I know, I know. Go ahead and say it, “Lynn! Use your filter.”

I suppose I wanted just one more encounter with him because he intrigued me. But mostly I was being playful with  the whole “I eat pork” thing. His eyes met mine as it took a minute for him to realize I was referring to his “Help Wanted” poem. After that, he had me read one more short poem and then I started to walk away. Until he asked for my information. Yes, my in-for-ma-tion. I gave him my business card and then he told me again that he was serious about reading his poetry to me on the phone sometime.

I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen because I’m trying this whole notion of being without a man for a while. My filter was back in place by then so I did not say that to him. I thought it better to walk away, but had I explained why I couldn’t call him, I would have said this:

Yusuf Ali El,  I’m not sure I could actually survive hearing you spill these very intimate words out of your mouth and into my ear. Your poetry pierced my heart today. When I was feeling particularly lonely, your words of understanding and sensitivity jumped off of the page and at the same time both stirred and soothed my aching heart. I hope you don’t mind me sharing your poem on Page 19, the one you must snare unsuspecting women with as they walk innocently by your booth in search of nachos, but it meant a lot to me that someone I have never met before could capture just what I needed.

“O Woman”

by Yusuf Ali El (Joe E. Mitchell)

(Reprinted from O Woman) from the book Raw Tears, copyright 2011, published by Natural Resources Unlimited

O Woman,

don’t feel that you

can only come to me

when things are going well.

I want you to come to me

with your tears, fears,

and clabbered promises

that sat out too many nights.

I want you to come to me

in your head rags and blue jeans,

with an old coat

thrown over your night things.

I want you to come to me

when today is gone, tonight’s too long,

and tomorrow, is too far away.

I want you to come to me

when you need someone to be lonely with

and lovemaking is nowhere near your mind.

Because you see girl, I’ve been lonely too,

and I know that lonely, is as chronic as cancer,

and it keeps no time schedule.

So come to me, and don’t worry

about the lateness of the night.

I want you to come to me,

when it gets to you.

Just come on to me girl,

and I’ll do what I can.

I’ll be your friend.

O Woman.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Food

  1. Suzanne

    Oh, Lynn. You ARE blessed with the gift of words and a wonderful sense of humor. I love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing the poem. Except for the lovemaking part :-), it makes me think of Jesus.

    • lynnhouse

      Suzanne! How are you? Thank you for reading my blog. I actually spoke with Yusuf tonight. He is a warm, funny and talented man. It’s a start of a new friendship/mentorship (him to me because I can learn so much from him). He’s a great writer. I agree. I thought the poem was as if Jesus was saying it as well.

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