We were waiting for a poet to show up in a small café in Chinatown. Rastafarians and hipsters sat with steaming tea cups while the owner walked around taking orders and placing mics by a chair as the temperature fell outside and snow built unobtrusively by the door. A donation tin was on a table in front with two quarters and a toonie in it. The cold had been building for a week and now it had finally broken at its highest and warmed enough so we had snow again.
We were there for the university paper to interview a poet about his words in the hopes he would share some of his better ones with us.
He got there late but immediately came over to greet us. He was the skinniest man I had ever seen who wasn’t dying. His hair was long and his fingers were spindly, easily broken things. When he talked sometimes his voice would lilt and dive into rhythms, and other times it was just like ours. I think poets should let their poems do the boasting and he did too.
He went on to defend what he wrote. Like he would explain it to a suit. That it was not all useless. Then we watched him do his show, and people snapped their fingers and bent their heads low and jived their heads to the verses. He was a good one. I wondered then what he was doing in this place.
Our skinny poet was going to stay the rest of the night, but we had what we needed.
As we were saying goodbye and getting our coats on, one of the bad poets stood on a table, so he could be taller, and said loudly: “The Rolling Stones are better than the Beatles.” The room looked at him. “There, I said it.”
He took a bow and sat back down and smiled because it was the first time his words had ever been really controversial. I don’t remember the good poet’s specific reaction; he was at a table with friends enjoying himself.