“What are you taking pictures of?” he enunciates this time. His words are clipped but deep and smooth. He doesn't turn to me but continues to watch the water and nurse his fishing line, pulling it in and letting it go with a gentle rhythm that I had admired from afar before he called out to me.
“I don’t know, just pictures of the river. My mother lives a few blocks away. I’m visiting her from Florida.”
His name is Alonzo. He’s tall with broad shoulders and a distinguished air. It doesn't surprise me to learn that he was an educator before he retired. These days, he’s a jazz aficionado, author, poet and photographer. He also travels, fishes, and allows curious strangers with big cameras to pepper him with questions.
I move in and stand next to him and we both watch the line drift and twitch while we talk.
“Florida,” he tilts his head as if he just discovered that we share a mutual acquaintance. “I visit South Carolina fairly often. I love the architecture down there, to see the cities built by black people. It’s like visiting ghosts. Even though I feel a lot of pain when I go to the South, I’m willing to drudge up the bad ghosts in order to commune with the good.”
His words are beautiful, but they roll out of him in an unassuming, conversational tone. I imagine that he was always a poet at heart - even before he was one in practice. I’m immediately at ease with him. There’s a tug on the line -