He plays guitar in the subway tunnel,
not even the underground echo enough
to make anything of his cracked low voice
or his sad, mechanical, strumming.
Still, his guitar case slowly fills with quarters,
out of sympathy I expect, not reward
for any talent. And he tapes a picture of his family
to the lid, a rumpled wife, three slovenly kids.
Even the inartistic must provide.
I empty the change from my pockets,
add my humble payday to the rest.
I don't do that for the ones that
actually sound good: the saxophonist
at South Station, the acappella trio in Harvard Square.
I let others pay for music. I'm buying a man's
salvation. He pauses in the midst of his
Dylan cover, grins at me, asks, "Any requests?"
Sure, I want to say, do a better job of caring
for those lost souls in the photograph. He could spend
a lifetime wondering, how does that go?