SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 375: "The Poetic Magic of Billimarie"

RADSTONE_Operation 36509
I just stand listening and observing for a while. Watching person after person queue in line for their audience with street poet. A father and son stand quietly as she greets at them. Then putting her head down she, with occasional glances up, begins punching at the keyboard of her eclectically pink Royal typewriter. Both are stoically still, as if testing to see if this stranger can figure them out. A few minutes pass and with a gleaming smile she pulls a little slice of inspiration from the rollers, and handing it the young boy says, “Thanks.”

RADSTONE_Operation 36504Thanks… no request for payment… no explanation of her work… just a simple thanks as she shifts her eyes to poem two… Dad.

They look at each other in reviewing the poetry just given them. Dad’s eyes light with amazement as if they have just made a new friend. “I’m ready,” the father stands silent.

I watch for a while. A documentary crew from Mexico curiously surrounds her, a tattooed gansta, who returns moments after getting his poem asking, “What does this say?”

“Those are X’s. I crossed something out,” she kindly responds. He pauses, looking both confused and let down, “I thought it said, sex” he reacts, obviously hoping for an affirmation of his insightful one liner. Smiling and accepting she explains, “those are corrections… that’s all.” Never does she show any sign of contempt. Any reactionary emotion, or any back talk as the now chin dropped dude walks away; surely he must at least feel uplifted by the spirit of acceptance that seems to radiate from her very presence. She returns to smile at the next in line, “Hello.”

In a time where most things have a price tag or some other attached agenda, a decade where far too many are heavily guarded and skeptical, can it be that I have strolled across the real deal– a giver with no intentions other than to share her gifts with the world?

RADSTONE_Operation 36506A humble cardboard sign reads, “Free Poetry.” Even though there is no price tag, and with no cash in my pocket (seems that plastic has taken over my life), I am a little ashamed to approach her for a poem. But the draw to speak with her is impossible to walk away from. I find myself trapped in indecision, but as the crowd momentarily thins an opportunity opens. I am pulled in.

“Hi, my name is Richard” I begin explaining the history of 365. But before I have the opportunity to fully introduce myself, I am completely stopped by a hypnotic grin. My words are halted. It’s like a forced flashback to kid self, you know, that tongue-tied moment where your speechless. A feeling that I rarely have these days, but one that has me stopped in my tracks this evening. “I know…” she reaches to me; “…I’ve seen you meeting people before.” Seems we have walked in the same circles and I was totally unaware. Humbled, I find myself on the other side of my own soapbox.

RADSTONE_Operation 36505Her name is Billimarie, and yes, she is the real deal. “I never started doing this for any money…” she explains, “…I’m just doing it to get to know people and to share my poetry.”

A smiling face walks up as we are chatting, with poem in hand; a bill is dropped in Billimarie’s typewriter case. She looks up, and with signature style, expresses a heartfelt “Thanks.” Then back at me, “but one day someone told me that they would not feel good about themselves if they did not give me something in return. So I learned to accept payment, but I’m still OK to not be paid.”

“Can I write you a poem,” Billimarie asks. With empty pockets I swallow hard. “I’ve got no cash on me and am embarrassed to have you write one.” She smiles and looks me in the eyes (Crud, I’m twelve again).

“OK, I’ll do it.” I begin to revert to my shy younger years, but drawing to my present self, I dig deep and shake it off. “I would love that… but first can I ask you a few questions?” With thoughtful reflection Billimarie agrees.

RADSTONE_Operation 36508Question One
If you had the stage… the undivided attention of the world… and all were listening… What words of wisdom, council or advice would you share?

“’Hello how are you!

There is too much talk in the world, and not enough listening. That’s where we get lost and feel alienated around each other. We have to acknowledge, ‘my feeling are just as valid as your feelings… my experiences… my knowledge… my thoughts… my goals… my ambitions are just as valid as anybody else’s.’” Big pause… “That’s what I would say.

I would ask people how they are… and hope for an honest response. And if not an honest response… then at least a response… and see what happens.”

Question Two
Looking toward the future… as far, or as close as you want to imagine (one year or hundreds of years)– Where do you see the people or the planet … or, what do you think we should be doing now to prepare for the future?

“I used to think in bigger terms. I was in love with this concept of saving the world, what I think is the way most passionate people are. Wanting to help… wanting to make things better… wanting to offer something. And that is beautiful on it’s own terms. It’s just now I’m seeing the world a little bit differently as I mature and continue to do things.

Quite honestly something that we need to do… something that we should teach ourselves to do… is to denounce the idea of a future… to denounce the idea of security… and to take pride in the moment– as cliché as that is. Because there is no future without being here… So we have to ask ourselves… what are you going to do right now, regardless of fear, regardless of the past? I think this is one of the best things we can do to build a better future. Which is slightly paradoxical, I’m aware. But a lot of the amazing things in life are.”

Billimarie, thanks go to you… for your wisdom… for your gifts… and for the healer that you are. You are truly magical.

Talk soon my friends,