the street cleaner

The street cleaner

Hoa made a few last stops to pick up garbage,
striking her bell at each stop
in the typical, boring way
Then she returned her cart,
went home and washed,
had something to eat
and went to bed

♫ ♫ ♫

She rose at 5 am,
prepared to leave for work,
and soon was out the door

She paused for a bowl of phở[1] along the way
and then again to pick up her trash cart,
and before long she had reached
her first stop of the day

Like every day,
at every stop,
she took out her metal rod
and prepared to strike her bell
to inform people that it was time
to bring out their trash

On that day, however,
something unusual happened:
A few moments after she began
to bang away at the bell,
three drummers appeared
and began to play with her

Although taken by surprise,
she banged away as usual,
clang, clang, clang, clang, clang,
while the drummers accompanied her
with a steady rhythm

♫ ♫ ♫

And when Hoa stopped banging,
the drummers vanished
She collected the trash and put it in her cart,
swept the area nearby
and continued on to the next trash tree[2]

When she got to her second stop,
she again began to bang on her bell,
and this time a different group of musicians
came out to play
and accompanied her monotonous banging
on triangles and cow bells

♫ ♫ ♫

And when she stopped,
they disappeared

Hoa picked up the garbage
and then pushed her cart
to the next collection point,
and this time when musicians turned up,
with gongs and wooden bells,
she altered her banging,
got into the rhythm
and made music

♫ ♫ ♫

The next time Hoa stopped
was at a tree near the cathedral
The bells began to ring
and she joined in

♫ ♫ ♫

And at the following tree
a musician with a stone xylophone appeared,
and together they created
something beautiful

♫ ♫ ♫

And for the rest of the day,
every time Hoa stopped to pick up some trash,
one or more people came out,
sometimes large numbers of people,
and made music with her,
using rhythm sticks,
pot and pans,
and anything else they could find

♫ ♫ ♫

The following morning
when she got to the first tree,
she began to play her bell
in such a beautiful way
that people came out just to listen

No other musicians joined her that day,
but she didn’t care
She was quite happy
making music alone

♫ ♫ ♫

[1] Phở is a noodle soup, usually chicken noodle or beef noodle, and it contains a variety of herbs and spices. The Vietnamese love to eat phở for breakfast.

[2] In Hanoi people park their motorbikes on the sidewalk, so when they put trash in the street, they put it in front of a tree. If they put it just anywhere along the curb, it might block motorbike access to the sidewalk.