A chance encounter

A poem inspired by the title of a painting (pictured, right) by my very talented young friend Lingsi. The piece won the “painting” category in the Imagine ’05 competition. The poem is dedicated to my wife, Jenny.


While watching workers passing by,
I saw a man without a tie.
“What right have you sir, if I may,
To be so naked in this way?

“Wherefore do you smile and grin,
So gay of step and high of chin.
When others ’round you, drab and grey,
Look down upon you in dismay?”

Accosted thus, he raised his palm,
Responding with a gentle calm:
“I’m sorry that my dress offends,
But what care I for fashion trends?

“My countenance displays to you
Most truthfully my every mood.
It speaks more than a tie could do,
Regardless of the stripe or hue.”

“But kind sir,” I interject,
“Have you so little self-respect?
So candidly you bare your heart,
And make known all your inner parts.

“Oh, that I could be blasé,
If all my thoughts were on display;
Won’t letting others see your mind,
Give rein for them to be unkind?”

“Answers I have few, dear miss,
But as you fret just ponder this:
I have faith in God above,
And put my hope in truth and love.

“Where I go, I do not dread,
I trust the ground on which I tread.
And whom I meet I will not hate;
Why more enmity create?”

I weighed his words and found them just,
His earnestness I longed to trust.
We spoke ’til late into the night,
Of many things both grave and light.

Then I: “‘fore day’s first rays are cast,
Please let me tell you of my past.
This hatred self so full of sin,
That joy stays out and pain stays in.

“How could you love one such as me?
Quite crazy you would have to be,
That you would know my deepest shame,
Still from my eyes each teardrop claim.”

He: “Let your eye be unimpaired,
Remain courageous, don’t be scared.
Let not your handsome face be marred,
No matter how your heart is scarred.

“I see why you your past disdain,
But count it not on you a stain.
Let sunlight pierce your clouded soul,
And take back what the darkness stole.”

Seeing the candour in his eyes,
I finally purged my own disguise.
And in my nakedness I saw,
That which I’d missed the day before.

No more ties or skirts or shoes,
Not greens nor greys nor browns nor blues.
Just various people black and white,
Trying to tell what’s wrong from right.

Then he took my hand in his,
And softly in my ear he said:
“Let your heart and mind be free,
And meet me in my reverie.”