The Singing Men
They are the singing men. Every city has them,
singing for their supper or just for the hell of it.
Corners and doorways are good places to find them,
on the edges of things, humming, humming.
Or full-throated, singing to swallow the moon,
the tendons in their necks making valleys in their stubble
and the songs from memory,
from a time when they weren't just the singing men
but had lives, in which, if they were lucky, they'd squeeze
a little music in, between the lovers, the kids, the wives.
But now it's just the songs that are left
to keep them threaded to the earth,
the world's greatest group, toting love ballads on the Staten Island ferry,
slave songs in New Jersey, folk in Moscow, blues in Leeds
and of course here, on the edge of the underground,
singing opera on the steps of Balham tube,
his solos resounding down to the ticket barriers' greyhound stalls
and his costume perfect --- one gold can of Extra,
beard scribbled over his chin, dirt like grain in the wood,
as he sits there, legs open, welcoming the commuters home.