His name is Anton.
With the busted leg.
A 57 year old elementary school grounds keeper;
A 30 year veteran of the Polícia,
Insisted that in Portugal,
You must speak Português.

I tell him,
Eu falo Português muito mal.
He tells me
Um mês!
E você vai falar doce para as senhoras.
But I don’t have a month;
I only have today.
And I’m not here for lessons in language.
I can barely speak my own.
I am here to paint

I stir an ocean of emerald,
Pour out the color of Ireland,
Take brush in eager hand,
Baptize my bristles,
And reach out to anoint the wall.

Como este

Anton takes my brush.
He wields a paint roller like an old master.
Teaches me technique
Stern hand of a wise man.
He tells me so.

I smile warmly,
And offer cheeky
Eu sou um artista!

His face breaks.
He grins from ear to ear.
I’ve discovered the serpent’s code.
Anton is a man
Known to harass.
It’s his way of play.
A stern man with stern games.

Forest shades of jade
Rise up towards the sky.
Weave and fold along river bend walkways.
Blossom and bloom to the tempo of
Bom dia!
Boa tarde!
Boa noite!
E obrigado!

We speak little in each others’ tongue
But I’m learning.
I repeat his words.
Weave them together with my poor english
And my poorer spanish.

Somehow we find it.
That level of understanding
We communicate like old man and son.
He has two.
Grown with children of their own.
Tells me to get a shotgun
When I tell him I have two daughters and no son.

Time comes out of its shell.
Picks up its pace.
Moves from crawl to rapid swing.
Burns down the day
With brush stroke and laughter.
With back and forth banter.
I had come to give
But Anton had given more.

When he looks at the work of my day.
He calls me a PROFESSIONAL!
Beams at me with pride.
Won’t let me walk away
Until he gives me his knife.

It’s small and folds out.
Comes stock with a fold out fork.
Tells me not to tell the others.
This is for me.
Something special
A gift to keep alive this memory.

His name is Anton.
With the busted leg.
A 57 year old elementary school grounds keeper;
A 30 year veteran of the Polícia,
Insisted that in Portugal,
You must speak Português.
Taught me a lesson in language.
That you don’t need to speak in the same tongue,
To open up and love someone.

Author’s Note: I had the privilege of leading a small team in a Community Outreach event in Portugal recently. We went to an elementary school where we painted a massive outdoor area where the children played. 

Anton, the grounds keeper who suffered from a broken leg, was our point of contact and gave us the overview of the desired project. Initially he came across as a gruff and grumpy man. who spoke no English, but I noticed a mischievious look about him as he would correct our painting techniques. At one point he offered me a paint roller to use instead of my paintbrush calling proclaiming something that translated “like me! A professional!” I pointed to the paintbrush, then to myself, and proclaimed “Artista!” He broke into laughter and in that moment we bonded.

I learned a lot about Anton. He is an extraordinary man I’ll not soon forget!

About St Basil Z Fish

Curator of the strange and incredibly awkward. A rambling writer with the misguided notion he has something to say. His only redeeming qualities are his wife and children.
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