Cracked sidewalk outside the book depository,
Elm and Houston, Saturday morning:
boots and Stetsons stride, purposeful
leather attachés clutched, or mosey past
in Levis and pearl-buttons. Long-legged women,
tall boots and short skirts, brush back
blond hair unbound and blowing free.
Ah, Dallas. Diamond-studded Buckle
on the Bible Belt.

Families with kids wound tight as yo-yos,
teens on skateboards, all species of tourist
immersed in brochures, cameras, and phones,
step from the curb to a cacophony:
shrieking brakes, clamorous horns.
Babel of language. Pointing fingers.
A lone figure stakes out a red brick wall
weaves blues; guitar case yawns. Small sign
reads Wounded Warrior. Head bowed
over twelve strings, he nods, keeps time,
sings a chorus, sometimes riffs a phrase,
lets fingers spark melodies fluid as mist rising
from rain-damp walkways, to wend among boots,
sneakers, sandals; encircle broad shoulders,
narrow waists; slip into unheeding ears.
Folks pause, rapt, as he wails, open-throated,
into mid-day.

A man in Dockers tosses change;
woman in polka dots rummages her handbag.
Crowd digs deep into purses and pockets -
This guy is good! Folks are smiling, swaying,
tapping toes. Stevie Ray medley complete,
the guitarist scoops change, folds bills,
snaps the guitar in its case, slings it
over his shoulder, slips into a braced crutch,
and exits to standing ovation.

Ann Howells