Monday, April 2, 2018

Nancy Scott


His work screams from the gallery walls—
women in contorted positions, hair laced with serpents,
steam engine full frontal spewing blood,
blackened bodies leaping from a burning tower.

He says once he had to appear in court where the judge
tried to understand his art. A baby tied to a railroad track,
the Judge said. How do you consider that art?

Your Honor, the man said. It is not a baby tied
to a railroad track. It’s canvas with paint.

He doesn't say why the court confiscated all his work.

I want my own apartment, he says, but the government
always runs out of money.
We're put out of the shelter every day at 6:30 a.m.

Where do you paint?
I ask.
The gallery gives me space, he says, and I walk, four, five
miles around town. I know where to get free coffee.

Dipping his brush into bright yellow paint, he swashes it
all over the blank canvas. He steps back to inspect his efforts,
every inch of canvas covered with sunshine.

Once when I had no place to sleep, I walked until I found
a vacant house near the river. No running water or heat
and part of the roof was missing, but someone left a guitar
and I had electricity. Took cops six months to find and
arrest me for criminal trespass. I couldn't post bail;
besides the jail was warm and I got meals.

Nancy reads "The Homeless Artist, Trenton, NJ":

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Nancy confesses: "I met the artist at the gallery where I went to see a new exhibit. We were the only two there and struck up a conversation. I spent decades assisting homeless people to find permanent housing, but the problem never goes away. Heartbreaking to realize how we've failed as a nation."

NANCY SCOTT has been managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets for more than a decade and is the author of nine books of poetry. Her most recent, Ah Men (Aldrich Press, 2016) is a retrospective on the men who have influenced her life. She had a long career as a social worker for the State of New Jersey. which inspired many of her poems. Orginally from the Chicago area, she has resided in New Jersey for many years, but considers herself a Midwesterner.

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