Darkness is the lack of illuminance
But to the Creator light and darkness
Are the same substance
What was before Creation was God
Light and dark by His law
The Light of all that is
Became flesh and dwelt among us
May you remember the Wise Kings
Sacrificed many things
To follow a celestial sign
To the babe who designed
The Light that was their guide
The Christ mass is celebrated
In the time of solstice
Not by coincidence
May the mutual celebration of light
Remind of the need of Christ
It's a -20C night, plus wind chill. People scramble into shops not noticing the dark shape of Larry, a street vendor poet, huddled in his battered wheelchair. Dull streetlights and glaring headlights make the world seem colder. I catch the distant twinkle of icy stars overhead, and I am glad to see Larry. He hasn't been around for awhile. I offer Larry some funds. He thanks me with a murmured, “What do you want me to write about?”
“How about light…?”
Larry grins and shakes his head as if I must be nuts asking him to write about light on one of the darkest nights of the year. A frozen pen is pulled out. Larry scrawls words on crumpled paper, his hands shivering in thin cotton gloves. I head to Starbuck’s for a 'grande' size hot black tea which Larry says would help warm him up. Five minutes later, I'm back with tea and a wedge of pumpkin loaf. Larry thanks me. The pumpkin loaf is tucked away in his jacket. He leans back precariously in his wheelchair, and spins tricky circles on packed snow and ice, then sets the tea down on an icy bench. He prints his name, and adds a signature swirl to the finished poem. He tells me with a note of disappointment that he’s written poems and people haven’t bothered to return for them. As he hands me the poem about 'Light', I wonder how many poems he's given away, keeping no record for himself of his writings...all 'give aways'. That's Larry's world, a life of pouring out his gift to the often indifferent.
Larry is schizophrenic. He was a runaway as a young man, and fell into a dissolute life of pimping, drugs, and poverty on Vancouver’s east side before returning to Winnipeg. His family stopped having much to do with him after he jumped from a fourth story window at a men’s shelter...surviving to face life in a wheelchair. He likes to ‘dance’ in his wheelchair these days.
Larry is faithful. Larry has fortitude. I could do with some of his fortitude. Larry seldom misses attending Sunday evening church service at a downtown community church where I invited him two or three years ago. And Larry’s poems always remind me of things I should know by now...including that light is often found in the darkest, most unexpected, and incredibly unpretentious places.
copyright L. Klippenstein and S. Michaels, Dec. 1, 2010