I stopped last night to enjoy a duo play “On the Banks of the Ohio”
across from the Belle of Louisville. The banjo player sang beautiful harmony.
I added my voice to their next song, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
This morning, on my break from reading English Lit essays
I noticed two cats in harness and leash
on a stone bench in front of the Convention Center.
Next to them, Jeremy from North Carolina sat cross-legged.
KJ, I learned, was abandoned by an owner in California;
Salem was a feral cat from Mississippi—some company for KJ.
As I turned to go inside, Jeremy leaned over and kissed KJ.
I looked for Jeremy on my lunch break. He was still there.
He mentioned that the police had ticketed him.
While someone asked him about the cats,
I put a $5 bill in a discreet metal cup next to KJ and Salem.
Jeremy offered me his story—how he’d left home at sixteen, and is now thirty-seven,
how he had picked up what looked to be a kid’s bike at the armory,
how when he travels by plane, the cats lie quietly in an athletic bag.
Sometimes he hitchhikes. For a while he worked for the circus.
I wondered if any of what he said was true—
and then I decided his whole life was true.
That’s how he got his teeth knocked out, he said,
After lunch I brought him coffee and a baked apple.
I don’t know if he remembered me and the cats looked weary.
But I wanted to know why he became a traveler. “Good question,” he said,
adding, “the adventure, I guess. I think I’ll stay in Louisville for a while now.”
I never introduced myself, and he asked nothing of me.
I shook his hand, slipped into the building,
and washed mine.