I am posting here a (mostly) prose version of the first draft of a new poem that I am writing about Richard Musto. Richard is an 88 year-old man who sometimes lives on the streets of Manhattan and is the subject of my upcoming biography called The Life and Times of Richard Musto.
As I complete the first draft of this new work I have been thinking more about the spiritual dimensions of Richard's life, and this is the focus of my new poem.
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A Footloose Practice
My Buddhist friends speak of this or that as being part of their daily practice, not that I’m entirely sure what they mean by this phrase. But my guess is that Richard Musto’s daily practice could best be described this way – keeping things footloose and fancy free to the ultimate degree.
It’s the very mantra
That he lives by
As he traipses through
The city streets
It’s the message
Quite literally that
He taped to his boots
When we met the other day
In midtown Manhattan
What better evidence do you want to vouchsafe for Richard’s bona fides as a resident of the Floating World? Long ago having consumed whatever seed corn that once may have come his way, Richard now abides by Providential means (that plus a small monthly stipend he receives from the VA for his 30% disability) as he takes to the city streets much as Han Shan and the rest of his gang took to the caves along the face of Cold Mountain, an eponymous hero, but in Richard's case almost every night in search of a new abode.
And Richard also engages in sporadic commercial activity by selling flowers, used books and assorted novelties out of a sidewalk storefront, whenever the weather and his health allows. And while such activities would probably run afoul of a traditional Buddhist monk’s vows of poverty, they in no way impair Richard’s pursuit of his more footloose spiritual practice, since all of his inventory fits neatly into a canvas satchel as he bangs his way around town.
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Please take a moment to visit the home page for Richard Musto's Life Story and support our kickstarter campaign when it launches in the days to come.