Zen of TippingMy friend Lou
used to walk up to strangers
and tip them - no, really -
he'd cruise the South Side,
pick out the businessman on his way
to lunch, the slacker hanging
by the Beehive, the young girl
walking her dog, and he'd go up,
pull out a dollar and say,
Here's a tip for you.
I think you're doing a really
good job today. Then Lou would
walk away as the tipee stood
in mystified silence. Sometimes
he would cut it short with,
Keep up the fine work.
People thought Lou was weird,
but he wasn't. He didn't have much,
worked as a waiter. I don't know
why he did it. But I know it wasn't
about the magnanimous gesture,
an easy way to feel important,
it wasn't interrupting the impenetrable
edge of the individual - you'd
have to ask Lou - maybe it was
about being awake, hand-to-hand
sweetness, a chain of kindnesses,
or fun - the tenderness
we forget in each other.
- Jan Beatty
Jan Beatty is the author of three books, Red Sugar, Boneshaker, and Mad River (winner of the1994 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize), all published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Beatty has worked as a welfare caseworker, an abortion counselor, as a waitress, and in maximum-security prisons. She hosts Prosody, a public radio show on NPR-affiliate WYEP-FM featuring the work of national writers, and directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the low-residency MFA program.
Beatty will be featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, March 10-13, 2010, in Washington, DC. The festival will present readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, film, activism - four days of creative transformation as we imagine a way forward, hone our community and activist skills, and celebrate the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for social change. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.