Saw many I loved in the streets or ferry boat or public assembly, yet  never told them a word, lived the same life with the rest, the same old  laughing, gnawing, sleeping, played the part that still looks back on the
actor or actress, the same old role, the role that is what we make it, as  great as we like, or as small as we like, or both great and small.
- Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Mysterious as the river, a life-
time of meandering, as much a
part of Olmsted's verdant banks
as the great maples and oaks, the
ducks and geese, whose real names

I also never learned, here lived
a resident of Brookline who had
no luxury condo, all unfenced
Nature his frontyard, and here he
sprawled, cans scattered about

him like so much dirty laundry,
and went about his business, which
turned out to be survival, to live
his life, Thoreau once said, as if
he had nothing to do but to live, and

year after year I passed him by, as
did my kids, for whom he was the
Man of the Muddy, a feudal lord who
reigned over his realm in every
season, frightening sometimes when

his arms set to flapping, but then so
serene, with leather hat in place, the
birds and squirrels gathered round him
on the grass, recognizing a good neighbor
when they saw one, how startling, then,

not to see him on my bike rides in July,
our little Eden seeming out-of-joint
like when that giant tree fell by Long-
wood, leaving an empty space that's still
hard to accept, but figured he had just

moved on, as my own boys have,
to someplace new, when I read in
the paper that he had died, and, in
death, finally learned the name of
this man who made a life, holding fast

to the Brookline side, on his
piece of heaven by the Muddy.

July 19, 2003

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
Contact Bill Schechter