There’s this blog 

Called Humans of New York

Created by a photographer 

Who walks through New York City

Stopping people on the street,

Taking their portraits,

Learning snippets of their stories

And captioning the pictures with the quotes.

Once it gained traction,

Several hundred of the best photos

Were bound side by side in a coffee table book.

I own this book.

I asked for it for Christmas one year

After I got tired of squinting at the HONY art

Through the lens of Google Images

In the back of my ninth grade journalism class.


Page 9:

“So what inspires you?”

“Colors, flowers and picnics.”

Like the pictured smiling woman

With roses in her cotton-candy hair

I too am inspired by colors

And beautiful things. 


Maybe moreso, however

I’m inspired by things that stand out;

Clashing things,

Quietly different things hiding in plain sight,

Things just weird enough 

To be obviously real. 

The guy waiting for the train in an astronaut suit

Or the widow clad in entirely neon rainbow colors

Who’d “love to meet someone”

But isn’t willing to change anything about herself to do it. 


Within these pages,

Normal and nonsensical 

Sit side by side. 

The heartwarmingly serious and the stupidly funny

Do glorious battle.

It’s these relationships

That fascinate me too,

The way a little boy on the subway

Holding up his teddy bear so it can see out the window

Can make sense with 

The pink gorilla playing upright bass on the street for cash,

The way they all exist together in the same city,

The way that city is only a fragment

Of the rest of the world. 


On another page, 

A wistful old woman 

Tugs her fur coat close and says,

“I just got back from the eye doctor. 

I hope he can save them.”

Each picture is a story.

They pile up with every page

And if I think too hard

About the scope of it all

I’m waist-deep in a blizzard. 

It’s a manageable glimpse

Into the crazy that is the world

One I can experience in moderation

From the comfort of my room 

On a Wednesday night. 


I’m inspired by the wave

Of nameless emotion

That uproots me 

When I experience too much life all at once.

Doesn’t have to be my life.

Oftentimes it’s not. 


I’m inspired by the bond trader

Who lost his job and decided-

Despite no experience-

To pursue photography. 

The man who somehow managed

To create this inspiration.


I’m inspired by hundreds of people 

I have never met

And will never meet

Who did nothing for me except

Live their normal lives

In the right place at the right time. 

Sometimes I wonder if they realized

The impact just being there,

Just existing,

Just being seen 

Would have on someone

So completely unconnected

With their lives,

And that inspires me too. 


This poem is about: 
My country
Our world


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