Poem: Playing for Food by Mark Tulin


Sometimes I sit at the community piano downtown

that’s set up in the middle of a busy sidewalk,

and make believe I’m Billy Joel playing, singing

some nostalgic tune that everyone knows.

I play for the tips as the crowd shuffles by,

tapping the white and black ivory for everyone but me,

blocking out the things that have gone wrong,

the voices in my head that whisper and accuse.

I keep playing until it gets dark, until the black crows

stop cawing and scatter from the branches of the trees,

until the lights go out and no one’s left walking the street.

I flex my cramped fingers, pull the fallboard over the keys,

count the dollars and loose change in the cigar box

and roll myself back down the street again.


I am an author, poet, humorist, and short story writer from Palm Springs, California. I write about various topics, from my early childhood in Philadelphia to my years as a family therapist and finally to my soul-searching in California. These are poetic narratives that may have humorous or serious content or both. Either way, I hope my poetry and stories resonate with you.

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