One Single Impression: The Stranger

Years ago
I sought the company
Of strangers

I traveled far and light
To listen to strangers,
Then walk away

I liked their stories
Liked listening
Without commitment
Without promises
Without need

One, an old Argentinian
Staying at a youth hostel
In Switzerland,
Tried to sell me a fur coat.

I played with him as he
Tried to play me.

Usted tiene una cara como una cura,
He said,
Drawing out each syllable
As if it were a kiss
I should desire.

I laughed
And let him go on
With his beautiful Spanish
Until I had enough:

No quiero esa cosa.
Gracias.


I laughed.
I knew
He and I played
Differently.
The coat was nothing new.

He stood with his
Merchandise:
Tu eres el flor del diablo.
He marched away

And let me fall
From grace.

Such things happen
Among strangers.

When I saw this week’s prompt, I went straight to my favorite resource, the Etymology Dictionary. When I searched “stranger,” the definition “guest, enemy” came up. So did “host (3),” meaning “body of Christ, consecrated bread.” Naturally, I had to look at the other definitions of host. I found the expected—a “person who receives guests”—and the less obvious “animal or plant having a parasite.” I was struck by the blend of kindness (guest), malice (enemy), mystery (body of Christ), and science (animal or plant with a parasite) in this. The definitions took me way beyond my personal definition of stranger as someone I don’t know.

So I struggled with this one until I decided to stick with what I knew and sprinkle it with a little kindness, malice, mystery, and science. The story of this poem is biographical. This was a moment in my life in the late 1980s when my favorite form of adventure was talking to strangers. I had the best of times.

Shortly after losing the attention of this strange Argentinian, I fell into conversation with a recently college graduated Californian boy whose goal in life was to start a fast food franchise that would sell healthy junk. His name was Stewart. He made me laugh, too.

One Single Impression

Comments

  1. I liked this one-so alive I felt I could see his face and your smiling eyes as well. You are very talented.

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  2. very creative piece of personal history...interesting way you presented it.

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  3. I only know Spanish words for numbers to 12 so I am sure I lost part in the language but I chuckled anyway with the parts I could understand.

    I would like to know more about your prompts for this meme if you could write me, I would appreciate it. You could just write it in a comment if you want and I could delete it frm comments after I read the info. Thanks!

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  4. Well he got the flower part right anyway. Hard to imagine you in a fur coat though. I guess he had more imagination than I do.

    I'm guessing -- correct me if I'm wrong of course -- that making you laugh isn't all that tough.

    And I DIG that about you.

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  5. And very similar to what we do in here...we take strangers and make them friends...very apt post!
    Sandi

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  6. you did a great job!!!

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  7. Beautiful poem and interesting the various meanings. Host as "body of Christ" in Italian is ostia, the round consecrated bread in the Holy Communion.

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  8. A lovely poem and found the definition of stranger mighty interesting!

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  9. Great autobiographical poem - and an incident fondly remembered.

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  10. Sandy: Very nicely written, I read it with much interest.

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  11. Intriguing story.

    Love the wordplay and how it fits your story's tone.

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  12. Such commitment. Excellent tale.

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  13. We are all strangers here enjoying food for thought served up by the hostess of words. A fun memory.

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  14. Ah.. beautifully done.. so charming, dreamy and breasy!! A memory that is relived through a certain wistful yearning... Brilliant!!

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  15. Ahhh...what a lovely post Sandy. I struggled with this prompt too. It's a goodie but I just couldn't finish anything I thought was worth posting.

    Hugs, G

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  16. I loved your post...reminiscing, yet making the reader feel as if they were right there experiencing it with you. Your info from the Etymology Dictionary was fascinating...I definitely will check this link out!

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  17. like your insight into your thought process and loved how your poem turned out. i just wish i knew spanish. haha.

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  18. Ah, talking to strangers. During the years that I worked on my thesis and dissertation (1976-1982), that describes my life very well. It was difficult at first and then became one of my favorite forms of recreation.

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  19. I love to look more deeply at words too. I loved your dissection and your final display of the word.

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  20. what a great funny story that has a great bite to it. I wonder how Old Stewart made out following his dream....

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  21. Sandy, the 1980's puts you past our Hippy generation. I'd have loved to have had you riding along with me on my motorcycle. We'd each be strangers (and perhaps strange, just a little) only for a short while.
    :-)
    ..

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  22. It has been good to catch up here Sandy..I really love your stories, photos and poems too!

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  23. Wonderful poem Sandy! Love the biographical nature.

    I think I played with strangers much easier in my younger years :)

    Peace,
    JP/deb

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  24. I love the musical flow of your words, even the ones that aren't part of the poem:

    "This was a moment in my life in the late 1980s when my favorite form of adventure was talking to strangers."

    It's an adventure and there is some safety in sharing bits of yourself with someone you'll only meet once.

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  25. I really like this one a lot.

    There has been a period in my life too where I was convinced that all the stability I needed was the ability to make friends of strangers.

    In response to your comment on my blog: I'm sure the daughters of the parents of the kids you teach are taught by that kind of people ;-)

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  26. Certainly this one reminds me of episodes in my life and makes me smile - I'm thinking that a laugh is worth far more than a fur coat! Lovely poem...

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  27. a journey everyone can relate to. its really interesting to meet / talk / deal with strangers

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  28. n French, ├ętranger can mean: foreign, unknown, extraneous, outsider, stranger, alien, unconnected, and irrelevant.

    There is a freedom in these encounters that is exhilarating.

    I enjoyed your poem on many levels, as adventure, as delight, as pure play. I long for more play.

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  29. Anonymous6:06 AM

    your writes are have so much worldly experiences woven in words ! like them :)

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  30. I really liked this Sandy and your explanation as well. All the strangers that our history is peppered with makes us who we are today...kind of...

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  31. What a delighful poem and an as delightful tale. Thank you for both.

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  32. the almost playful gentleness of the conversations
    builds up the reality of the scenario, the nearness and the distance placed in a subtle contrast - -
    the sense of 'strangeness ' outlines the casual talk , almost like a haze ..

    i find the poem very beautiful for its lifelike portrayal .. many thanks for sharing this ..

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  33. I can feel the mutual play here and the lightness of the moment in your heart - wonderful travel story.

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  34. What an interesting exchange.

    I was thinking along similar lines today...how we treat strangers differently than friends. Dress among friends than one would among public. One would tease a friend the way he wouldn't a friend and others visa versa.

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  35. I can imagine that...very appropiate and interesting!

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  36. Very interesting, Sandy :)

    wishes,
    devika

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