First Thursday was as busy as it ever gets, the cream of Puddle City's bourgeois bohemians out for their monthly art schmooze. The sidewalks of the Pearl were so packed, people had to turn sideways to squeeze by each other. A glass blower operated from the bed of a pick-up truck. Laid out on the sidewalk along gallery row were paintings, drawings, earrings, and hairy ceramic figurines. Inside the galleries and out on the street the order of the day was the same: sell your art, sell your look, sell yourself.

In the middle of all this I spotted a woman with a sign: "Poems Read, 50¢." I had to look twice. No, she wasn't offering to read palms. She had a notebook in her hands. She sat with the bustle of sidewalk commerce all around her, an almost meditative look on her face. The crowd passed by paying her no mind at all.

I stepped up and asked her to read. She stood, and opened her notebook..."I have a special one for you," she said, as if she'd been waiting for me.

She read in a strong voice, not shouting, but loud enough to be heard over the buzz of a dozen conversations around us. The poem was full of her emotional turmoil, a quick trip inside her mind, trying to make sense of a money mad world. She looked up as she read, and the two of us, with scores of people pressing by, shared a very private moment, me listening, her sharing the darkness of her life.

When she finished I paid her. We thanked each other. She had just "published" a poem for an audience of one. And in this market über alles world we inhabit, that has to be good enough.