May 25, 2011

The Beggars

Wild Roses, by Vincent van Gogh

The shapeless heaps turn out to be beggars.
They reveal themselves as you pass by.
They are selling the nothing
their hands hold out.

New Poems


  1. I find this beautiful. They are selling their nothing, and I must decide whether to buy it. How does one decide which nothing to purchase, while walking the streets of Chicago, NY, Paris?

    But of course it is not nothing, for they are alone, empty, with nothing to give for what you give them. Except their existence.

  2. To read this in the context of those who live on the streets (what came immediately to my mind) is to understand the power of making a choice to respond.

  3. "They are selling the nothing their hands hold out."
    In fact, a beggar is selling the opportunity to a passerby to give, knowing that he will receive nothing tangible in return. It is a transaction of sorts. If the passerby choses to give, he receives a spiritual reward, having given freely to someone in need.
    Thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

  4. This transaction is not an ordinary transaction in which something is exchanged for something. Here we can choose whether or not to give something for nothing. Though perhaps we do receive something after all.

    Mendicant monks simply beg. Many street beggars feel they have to give an entertainment or whatever in order to feel legitimised into receiving. It's interesting to review our own feelings about beggars and begging. Do we give always, sometimes or not at all? What are out criteria? Do we give more or less easily to those who simply beg or those who sing a song too?

  5. When we lived in Istanbul beggars were part of everyday life. Some were blind, crippled, even legless. We used to tear our hearts trying to figure out how to give to some and not to others. Finally a friend said, "Pick a beggar to support." Then there were beggar women who used their children to look miserable, and we often believed that they were helpless. Suddenly in the news we saw video of scam beggar women getting into taxis when raided by the police.

    I always admire those who do some sort of entertainment with a box out for coins or bills. But somehow I don't think of them in the same way as those who seemingly can't work or do anything for what you give them.

  6. More Soutine than van Gogh !
    The whole poem runs like this (my own translation):


    That heap looks like mere rubbish
    but I can tell
    that it's a pile of beggars.
    If only they could sell
    the emptiness of their pleading hands.

    They show the uncomfortable gawker
    mouths full of filth.
    They let him, without bourgeois inhibitions
    (and quite affordably)
    examine their skin conditions.

    His face distorts, melts like moonlit
    plastic before their decomposing eyes.
    They rejoice at his discomfort,
    and as he stammers his banalities
    they dribble, spew and spit.

    Anthony Weir, 82160 Caylus.


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!