Steve McAlphabet Motorcycling Music Across America
A Day’s Worth Of Poetry

A Day’s Worth Of Poetry

After offering “Pay What You Want Poetry” at Rocktoberfest a few weeks ago, I’ve been on the lookout for other gatherings where I might find people who want what I have to offer. I’d already planned to attend the “Sarasota Locals Reunion” event at Payne Park, where five bands were scheduled to perform including The Heart Machine, featuring my drummer Ray Istorica and good friends Michael Miller and Laura Rader. In the morning, I saw that there was also an event called “Le Marche Bohome” at Five Points Park so I packed up my motorcycle with my typewriter, stool, blanket, pillow, sign, and gratitude jar, and headed downtown.

Upon arriving, I said “Hi” to my friend Paula Knudsen, who was there selling her Frumples. Of the chilly 65 degree weather, she said, “I shouldn’t be here. It’s too cold. I want to move to Florida.”

I perused the clothes and crafts offered in the few dozen tents of the bohemian-style market and then set up shop on the circle of bricks toward the center of the park. I put a piece of paper into my typewriter and wrote a poem on the event to get warmed up.


In the park, the artists gather

displaying their passions

and trying to pay the rent

a guitarista plays softly

singing in French

as Paris comes alive in Sarasota

where the first weekend of November

brings both short sleeves and sweaters

as locals and relocated

adjust to the sixty degree cold front

yesterday’s rain leaves the skies still gray

shoppers are mostly strollers

glancing at merchandise

while engaging conversations

provide a soft mist of chatter

floating through the marketplace

as life goes on in Florida

and most of us breathe unmasked

making the most of a Saturday in the park

signs prohibit sitting on the grass

I am glad I brought a pillow

as I sit in a circle of bricks

just beyond the melee

and appreciate the poetry of life

Just as I finished that poem, a woman approached and asked how “Pay What You Want Poetry” works. I told her, “You tell me what kind of poem you want, then I write it. After you read it, you pay me what you want.” Since it was her friend’s birthday, she said she wanted a free verse poem on the beauty of aging.


Many decry the process

as our bodies change

etching wisdom into our skin

and introducing new pains

as the years of service

to the lives we’ve been offered

take their toll

Yet with the perceived burdens

of approaching the grave

that awaits us all

aging does have its joys

as it has its beauties

For age brings understanding

and an embrace of the mystery

in aging we find

who we are

through the relationships

we’ve taken a lifetime to build

and we harvest the love

that we have cultivated

as we are given the opportunity

to be loved as we have loved

age offers us experience

that we can share with others

and to experience the past

as entirely new people

than we were when we first lived

She said that she really liked the ending and put a twenty dollar bill in my gratitude jar. Another woman had expressed interest while I was working on that one, but when she didn’t come back, I just loaded another sheet of paper and wrote another poem. The replacement of a Z for the S in the title was a typo, but I liked it so I kept it.


We often live our lives

in search of the answers

our challenge is that

we should be searching

for questions

Answers are insignificant

when compared to questions

for questions can be asked eternally

while answers can only be given once

Questions open us to possibility

questions stretch our minds


and only questions

offer the opportunity

to explore beyond the walls

that answers have constructed

so may our questions

offer us vision

as we make our way through

the answers of yesterday

and we tickle the mystery

by asking the unknown

so that we may know

the questions to ask

Then I got hungry so I packed up and grabbed lunch downtown. Though the event at Payne Park wasn’t scheduled to start until two, and didn’t actually start until around four, I headed over early. On the way, my wandering mind delivered the line “for some, I am too much and for others not enough” so that was the poem I wrote when I arrived to a nearly empty ampitheatre.


For some I am too much

for others, I’m not enough

being too much of everything

is getting pretty tough

either I’m too intense

or way too lackadaisical

being too much or too little

is a question metaphysical

some say I’m too tolerant

others too noncommittal

some say I’m too tough

others, I’m too brittle

but I’m not too dense to realize

that it’s certainly not too likely

that I’ll please too many people

or that too many people will like me

but I’m not too concerned

with being too understood

for far too many people

their vision is too obscured

we are all way too distracted

and have too much on our minds

there is too much we just can’t see

because we’re all just way too blind

A friend named Jill approached with a friend, gave me a hug, and introduced me as Sven, which I did not correct. She moved slowly down the next step of the ampitheatre, explaining that she’d broken her kneecap. After slowly finding a seat on the next step down, she soon crawled slowly back up the steps, handed me two dollars and asked for a poem about kneecaps.


a broken kneecap

makes you realize

how often you take

prayer for granted

no longer able

to kneel in reverence

before the Creator of all things

and ask to make

the pain go away

realizing there must

not be anyone there

to begin with

for what sort of benevolent Creator

would create a breakable kneecap?

Initially, she said it was more religious than she expected, and as I was writing it, I realized she probably wasn’t relgious, which is why the ending made it irreligious. Anway, what do you want for two bucks?

Another woman approached and said she wanted a poem about a mother and son, the love between them. She said she loved her son with all of her heart, and with a devious smile I asked, “and how does he feel about you?” She said “vice versa”, and I asked a few more questions about their relationship and listened for keywords before getting started.


The day that mother first held her son

her love was unconditional

and the way in which she cared for him

was completely unequivocal

Mother cared for son the best she could

instilling ethics in the work you provide

and whatever he faced, through thick and through thin

she was always on his side

As mother guided son to be an adult

and to live the best life that he could

and son taught mother how to live

and then she understood

how love expands when you invest

in the lives of those you love

If there be a love greater than that

between mother and son

it is a love that

I know not of

I delivered the poem to my customer, and we both had tears in our eyes by the time she read the last line. She took a few moments to compose herself and brought me another twenty dollar bill.

A Facebook friend of mine who used to run in the same theatre circles I’ve occassionally wandered through came by with her daughter. I offered her a poem, and she said she wanted one about “Independence”. I asked what that meant to her and delivered this one.


We begin dependent

suckling at the breasts

of our mothers

unable to live

outside their sweet embrace

we are completely dependent

As we grow

we find our freedom

finding our own way

making our own decisions

on our own

we find our independence

we are our independence

When we lose

our sense of freedom

when we give our lives

to another

we often give up

our independence

but it always returns to us

it is what we are

She liked it a lot and gave me a hug. We chatted for awhile before her teenager’s boredom compelled her to leave. Considering that I was at the “Sarasota Locals Reunion” event, I figured that I should write a poem about locals.


Locals are those

who live where we grow

whether we’re home or abroad

it’s the locals that show

how to live where we are

wherever that may be

beyond the sight of the tourists

it’s the locals who see

what’s truly special about the place where they live

and because they appreciate it

they’re the first ones who give

a care about what their community is

and because they create it

they are the artists

the locals grow the food they eat

they also play the music

they care so much for the place they live

because they are the ones who use it

they may not be too many

and they may not be that vocal

but if you want to feel the vibe of a community

hang out with the locals

My last client of the day gave me three dollars and asked for a poem. At first she said she wanted it to be about Sarasota, and then said she wanted it to tell people to “be nice”. I incorporated both.


Sarasota was once called the meanest city

when it came to dealing with the homeless

and though we’ve come a long way

you still can’t call us blameless

for how we treat the least of these

or how we treat each other

we all too often ignore the fact

that we are all sisters and brothers

Maybe it’s too much sunshine

or maybe it’s nothing at all

maybe we’re just like everyone else

who has also taken the fall

for people all around the world

treat one another badly

and though we all want to live in a better world

it hasn’t turned out that way, sadly

but every day gives another chance

to change the way we live

what if we let go of bad vibes

and only good vibes we give

living here in paradise

we’ve no reason for hearts of ice

to every single person you meet

for God’s sake, just be nice.

I boosted the idea of “Pay What You Want Poetry” from Daniel Lee, who used to offer “Free Poetry” at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market. While I could just give away my talent and hope for charity, I’ve done a lot of things for free in my life, and still do, and not a lot of people can craft and type a custom poem in under ten to fifteen minutes, and I just feel that I need to value that. Considering how my poems often hit people emotionally and how unique the experience is, I dare say that the skill is invaluable, and I can’t really put a price on it, so I offer my customers the opportunity to pay what they want.

Since I’ve been offering this “Pay What You Want Poetry”, I’ve learned one valuable thing: poems are much more valuable after they are written than they are before. People who pay me before the poem is written give me a couple of bucks while people who pay me after they read the poem give me tens and twenties. For those who’ve received them, I hope they regard them as priceless as the experience is for me.