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 Return of the Leech-Gatherer
By Frank Sisco
Copyright 2000 Frank Sisco

 A poem about the writer meeting an old man who was like William Wordsworth's leech-gatherer from "Resolution and Independence."


Assume do I that William Wordsworth
did indeed meet
the old man of which he speaks
in his poem "Resolution and Independence"
written in eighteen hundred and seven

An old man who gathered leeches
by stirring his bare legs
in waters quite shallow
seen by just the gulls, the sea and the sparrows
as the leeches latched onto to his legs' skin

Then he'd pluck them off
and bring the leeches back to town
to sell for money ,
to those who used them to draw blood
to try to heal the sick

Such a dreadful job,
but he was not embarrassed
He did his work and made a living
and seemed to have something else
within his head occurring

This man was modest but very holy
had impressed Wordsworth as
being maybe a messenger

I think I saw the old man too,
or someone just as memorable
on eighty-fourth street in Manhattan
in nineteen hundred and sixty seven

I was eighteen and with seven friends
having a beer at the Hofbrau tavern
The old man seated at the bar
turned to me when I walked in
and then for an hour did I spend
time deep in conversation with him
He told me about life, not about his but mine
About what I found
and what I would find
in my future which he seemed to know

We talked and talked
just he and I
Eye to eye and nearly chin to chin
my friends confused by
our paired solitude

And then hearing a noise
I turned toward the door
some thirty feet to my right
and in the two seconds it took
to turn back to him on my left
he had vanished without a trace

I shook and then ran around
to check the place
He was not there and
so I ran to go outside
and saw the glass door
had not been opened
but ran out anyway
up and down the sidewalk
looking for my magical messenger
who I knew I'd never find


A Writing on the Net TM
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 Return of the Leech-Gatherer
By Frank Sisco
Copyright 2000 Frank Sisco
 Another version
of a poem about the writer meeting an old man who was like William Wordsworth's leech-gatherer from "Resolution and Independence."


What brings me to write this poem
about the vanishing man
I met so long ago
in the Manhattan Hofbrau Tavern
in nineteen hundred and sixty-seven
when I was just eighteen years old?

That gentle man who looked
into my soul's turns and tunnels,
and who assured me I would always
keep my unrelenting love of people,
strangers and adversaries too,
as the touchstone and vanguard in my life.

He told me that a heartfelt caring would be above
every other reward
a profession or a talent might bestow.

And for me the preciousness
of each person
would hold me captivated in my day,
in awe and reverence,
like an obsession
down from high, not up from low.

That vanishing man whose name I never knew
and forgot even if I ever asked
was for me like the Leech-Gatherer
William Wordsworth told about endearingly in his
"Resolution and Independence"
written in eighteen hundred and seven.

How clear is Wordsworth's imagery
of his meeting with the Leech-Gatherer
on the lonely moor.
An old man who at first sight might seem
so crass and ordinary
but up closer felt like a messenger from heaven.

Wordsworth wrote of how
the Leech-Gatherer earned his living
by stirring his bare legs in shallow water
so leeches would latch onto his skin,
then he'd pull them off,
collecting dozens to sell to those who
believed the blood when drawn by a leech
brought healing to many ills.

Wordsworth, like me, was in a questioning and
despondent mood,
feeling insecure about his life's meaning.

Is it that feeling from then back with me now,
pulling me inward
to try to write again of my old man?

Is it the same yearning and longing
and air of melancholy and unease,
that is a reminder that I still
have not found what I'm looking for,
and that it's becoming more undefined?

Wordsworth offered that the Leech-Gatherer may have
been a gift from grace above
and I too felt my old man had a message to deliver
that of God guiding me onward,
and a message of love.

Not only for me to give it out,
but to see how others give,
and to take it in.

For me, he had a beard and was over seventy,
but not ancient and hunched over
like a large stone, but instead was small,
yet also pleasant.
That is all I remember.
Except I remember what he told me,
and how he inspired me
and I so vividly remember
that when I turned toward a noise at the door,
some thirty feet to my right,
in those two or three seconds,
before I turned to my left,
to continue my talk with him,
he had vanished.

I haven't seen him since but still cherish
his foretelling and approval
of my infatuation
with every person
who happens upon my path
in my every day.
Now I also see their gift to me.

So fitting was it upon a first writing in sixty-seven
to lose the poem,
and not until now, when wiser, to see the
meaning of meeting my Leech-Gatherer.

And further fitting was it
upon a second writing last week
that she, a fellow poet upon hearing a draft,
without request, condition or cause
guided my search for parallels and reasons,
and pulled from Resolution and Independence
currents not seen by me before,
to help unlock the poem inside me
and open up its many doors.