Keeping the Bees Employed: Poetry by R.B. Morris

I recently read Keeping the Bees Employed, a book of poetry, by R. B. Morris. By turns beautiful and painful, it is a book that I highly recommend. Most of you know that R.B. is a local musician, playwright, poet and provocateur. I’ve spoken of his music often in this space and I’ve mentioned his poetry. I’d like to give it a few moments of focus and encourage you to pick up a copy of this gripping book. R.B.’s gift is in finding beauty in the simple elements of life – a conversation, a phrase, a half thought. His openness and honesty about his life is sometimes difficult to read, feeling somewhat like the reader is offered a voyeur’s perspective on moments and events that most of us would hold close as private.

When he read from his works recently at the Laurel Theater, I was particularly moved by his poem “The Can Man,” in which he finds the noble inside that which most of us would see as base. He draws a word-portrait of a broken man who still retains his dignity in a way that confounds those with whom he is forced to interact. As is true with the best of our poets, songwriters and visionaries, R.B. also finds the universal inside the ordinary, elevating his subjects to sometimes epic proportions.

R.B. reads from Keeping the Bees Employed

With his permission, I’m printing his “Can Man” poem below. I hope you like it as much as I did and I hope you will support this local artist. You can follow either of the links above to further explore or purchase the book. He very much deserves your support and encouragement. He has certainly given greatly to our city and has probably championed it more than any other person in recent memory. He loves this city and it shows.

“The Can Man”

The Can Man goes by ragged and black
A great bag over his shoulder
Full of aluminum cans and other
Assorted treasures
A scraggly patch of beard hiding
Most of his face
And a tortured old hat pulled
Low to his eyes
But those eyes will find you
He’s steady in his walk but
With a long limp
Winding him sideways like a crab
Dragging half his world
Behind the other
Making the morning rounds
To the dumpsters and garbage cans
Sometimes he talks to himself
Arguing with someone who’s not there
And you hear him coming
Before he walks by the window
Or when you go to your car
Or pass him on the street
If his gaze crosses yours
You’d think he cursed you point blank
For bringing it all down on him
Gowldom moollycoogin blushet
Goin dog cone fugg
Dong no sagg goowl
Tonk Shiblit muh blah asss

I think they should let him give this
Speech to the assembled luminaries of the city
The fathers and mothers who grace
The great offices overlooking
The river and downtown
I think they should let him limp
To the gilded podium and unload
His mighty poetry upon them
For he is the greater man
His work is pure and selfless
He’s the one who cleans up the mess
The trash the waste the excess
Of a bloated culture
Spilling out into the streets
Come rain or shine he’s there
He knows every crack
Every cloud every face
He sees right through you
To that other place where
We all are but can’t quite admit
He holds the city together
He’s the cog that makes it click
He’s the glue
He’s your better
A true volunteer