Becoming friends with New York City’s oldest known homeless man

Richard Musto
If you frequent Midtown South, chances are you’ve walked by Richard Musto. Credit: Michel Delsol

They’re the people we pass every day and try not to look at. Whatever excuses we tell ourselves to keep our distance - they just want money; I don’t have time; they’re either crazy, on drugs, or both – poet Joe Lamport stopped making them. Instead, he formed a close friendship with a man who lived in a cardboard box, getting to know his past, present and hopes for the future. The result is “The Life and Times of Richard Musto,” a story told through poetry about the 89-year-old World War II vet.

If you don’t have plans to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, a national event for sharing a favorite work of poetry on April 24, hearing Musto’s story may cause you to reconsider and share a poem with someone you pass every day. Here, exclusively in Metro, are the first words of the book, as Lamport describes meeting Musto:

It’s out on the street
Where such stories begin
As we’re rushing to work
Late for a meeting
Or mindlessly drifting
Amidst the densely packed throng
That’s where we
People of the Midtown South
Precinct step the most lively
Alone yet primed and ready
To love unrequited
The next passing stranger
Just as Baudelaire did
Or else if we dare
We might stop and inquire
Where someone is from
Not in the least prepared
For whatever comes next

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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