The Artist’s Gift

By Wayne Visser

It was the faces
That first made me stop
And look
And linger
 
Their wise wrinkles
And smiling eyes
So alive
So beautifully African
 
How long had I searched
For carvings such as these
That reach into my heart
And whisper to my soul?
 
But the gift
That I thought I had found
Was not the gift
That I left with that day
 
It would have been easy
To dismiss him
As just another street trader
One of life’s desperados
 
He had the look –
This scruffy Rastafarian
With lopsided grin –
Of the joker in the pack
 
But something about him
(Was it his manner?)
Drew me in closer
And made me take note
 
He told me his name
And oh so gently
He told me the story
Of his artist’s life
 
It was clear to me
That he lived only to give life
To pregnant meanings
Forever gestating in his being
 
He showed me his drawings
Which swirled on music
And danced with contrast
And sang in symbols
 
And as he decoded each sign
And unlocked each emotion
Art became transformed
Into philosophy
 
Even the negotiation on price
(As if aesthetics can ever be valued)
Revealed layers of sensitivity
To deeper principles
 
For he spoke sincerely
Of the importance of finding balance
Between giving and taking
And having and being
 
Under the African sun
On the city pavement that day
I felt a connection that transcended
The suit and the T-shirt
 
And as I said farewell
Like old friends parting
For once in my life I had the courage
To speak my truth
 
“The money I gave
Is merely a token of my appreciation
For these priceless expressions
Of your artistic talents”
 
“But more than this
You have my admiration and respect
For you have given me a much greater gift
Which is inspiration and insight”
 
Now whenever I look
At the wise old face
Carved in rough wood
I think of him
 
And I smile
And wish him every good fortune
Knowing that I am forever enriched
By the artist’s gift
 

Wayne Visser © 2004

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