He takes a poem he has written out of his folder.
It has just a few lines.
He folds the paper it is written on and slips it under a box of cereal at the supermarket or pins in on a bulletin board at the library, the post office or the senior center.
He doesn’t wait to see if anyone reads it, though he is curious and would like to someday.
He is Zarro, Saratoga Springs’ phantom poet.
I promised to keep this real identity secret because he doesn’t want anyone to know who leaves the poems. He likes the anonymity. “It’s just fun this way,” the 80-year-old city resident said.
“I haven’t even told my sister. She has a big mouth,” he confided. He did tell one friend, but that person doesn’t speak English well enough to tell anyone else, he said.
Zarro has been writing tankas, 31-syllable poems that have been a popular form of poetry in Japan for 1,300 years. Tanka poems often mark an occasion. The phantom poet likes the simplicity and brevity of this form of expression. But he’s written many different forms of poetry as well. “Some are long. Some are humorous. At least, I think they are,” he said.
Since mid-October, he has taken the leap of leaving poems in public places around the city. He got the idea from a Swedish movie where one of the characters did just what he now does. “I wish I could remember the name of the movie. In it, there were two guys — one neat and one sloppy. The sloppy guy would leave poems around for others to find. I just liked the idea. It’s a bit mischievous,” he said.
The name Zarro comes from the caped and masked bandit Zorro, a fictional character created by Johnston McCulley in 1919. Zorro wore black and was too cunning to be caught by authorities.
Zarro is wearing a plaid shirt but he likes to be clever, too.
Some of his poems are about loves from long ago, like the poem for a girl he admired when he was 15. “She was beautiful. I never told her how I felt. I wonder now what might have happened if I did,” he mused.
Another poem written by Zarro, who is divorced, is about a more recent love and titled “In Love Again.”
Hazel-eyed and dewy.
You came into the autumn of my life
Bearing soft whispers, smiles and lingering kisses.
In raiments of Indian summer, leaves perched tenaciously.
Hummingbirds blurred by fits and starts.
I was a boy again
In tune with nature
Oblivious of this universe.
Oh, I was in love again
And I didn’t care who knew it.
Not every poem is a about love. There are poems about travel, people he has known and thoughts he has pondered.
One poem called “My Immortality” begins:
Day lilies play but for a day.
Tulips smile a while longer
Yet in a year their tubers bear offspring often stronger.
Zarro said he is constantly revising his poems, working to make them better. Someday, he said, he will very discreetly stick around after hanging up one of his poems to see if anyone reads it.
“It’s silly. I would just want to see what they have to say. I know it’s silly, but I wonder,” he said.
So, if you find one of his poems at the Visitors Center on Broadway or the military museum on Lake Avenue, take a furtive look to the right and left. You might see Zarro, the phantom poet.
More from The Daily Gazette: