THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM
April 26, 2022
PAUL: Good evening everyone! Welcome to the Virtual Poetorium for April 26th, 2021. As I look out in the audience, I see some familiar faces missing, but there are also some brand new ones here tonight as well. I would estimate the size of our group tonight is about half of what we gathered last time. I do want to thank you all for joining us on this beautiful Spring night. As always, I’m so grateful to you all for taking time out from your busy schedules to be here to help us celebrate poets and poetry We have such a wonderful feature for you tonight, the very talented poet and founder of the Poets at Large poetry reading series, Karen Warinsky. I will be inviting Karen up to the stage in just a few moments, but before I do, I would like to officially open the April edition of the Virtual Poetorium with a short poem appropriately entitled “April” written over a hundred years ago by Sara Teasdale…
The roofs are shining from the rain.
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.
Yet the back-yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree—
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.
Tonight’s featured poet, Karen Warinsky, has been a Poetorium regular for a while now. However, since I’m sure there may be some new folks here tonight who may not be familiar with her, I’d like to let tell you a little more about Karen before I call her to the stage to be interviewed…
Karen Warinsky is a retired reporter/high school English teacher living in Connecticut. She has published poetry since 2011 and is a former finalist of the Montreal International Poetry Contest. Her debut collection Gold in Autumn was released in 2020, and her new book Sunrise Ruby will be out in 2022 (both from Human Error Publishing). She kayaks in the fair weather and organizes poetry readings in her area under the title of Poets at Large. Find her at karenwarinskypoetry.wordpress.com or on Twitter @KWarinsky.
Please welcome to our virtual stage, Karen Warinsky!
Good evening, Karen! Thank you once again for agreeing to do this Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. My first question for you this evening is how were you first exposed to poetry?
KAREN: I always loved music and rhythm and sang in the junior choir at church and in the chorus at school when I was a kid. Later in high school when we read poetry I responded to the rhythm in certain pieces. I also had a wonderful English teacher who taught us as much as she could. She gave me a book of modern verse, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle, when I graduated, and I still have that book.
PAUL: Can you tell us about some of your favorite poets and the reasons why
you like them?
KAREN: Well, that’s a tall order, there are so many. Annie Dillard is mostly known for her narrative prose, but Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is so beautiful and rich. It reads like poetry. That book made me rethink my relationship with nature. She is a master. Recently I learned about Diane Suess, who writes about real, working-class life and her work has a tart bite and I appreciate her unvarnished view. I also love Jericho Brown, his ability to move you quickly through a scene and get you somewhere point blank, and he has a very unique way of handling language. Whitman is someone I continue to read for the sweeping pictures he paints with words and his open heart. I also love Bukowski. His work is irreverent, funny, sad, and he’s helped me to “write tight.” Edna St. Vincent Millay, inspires me with her romantic, lilting verse. Maya Angelou is someone who wrote on many topics and readers can see her progression over the years, though her style cannot be defined. There are hundreds of excellent poets and I continue to learn about and from them.
PAUL: What do you feel is your primary motivation to write poetry?
KAREN: I love all the arts but am only really competent in writing. Writing helps me analyze what is going on in life, and sometimes brings me to a better understanding of things. Also, when people say they like a piece, that certainly feels good, that validation.
PAUL: What is your own personal definition of poetry?
KAREN: Besides actual poems, I tend to think of poetry as a way to live life. I was always someone who enjoyed sensations, sounds, colors, temperature, the “beingness” of things. I like to dig into the why of things. I try to be friendly and loving. When you don’t have to be involved with the nuts and bolts of daily life, its fun to try to live life as art.
PAUL: How would you describe the poetry you are currently writing?
KAREN: My first book, Gold in Autumn, was written when I was fully in mid-life, getting used to an empty house as my children became young adults and moved out, and those themes are there, as well as a backward look at my own youth. My new book, Sunrise Ruby, is coming out later this year and it deals with our current world political situation, and how technology continues to shape our lives. The closing section is full of poems of hope because I do look for the hope in everything.
PAUL: Do you recall the first poem you ever had published? Could you tell us
where it appeared, and if possible, share it with us now?
KAREN: There was a website called “Fortunates” back in 2011 that asked for clever sayings or haiku. They put it in a “fortune cookie” and each week there would be different ones. That site is gone now, but they took some of my early attempts. One was: “I threw out that box of maps/ and now my mother/can’t find her way to forgive me.” Also, in 2011 I went online to see where I could send poems and the first thing in the list was a Canadian magazine, The Arc. I sent some work and they liked it and put me in their mentor program, which meant I worked with their “Resident Poet.” Through that experience, I learned of The Montreal International Poetry Contest, entered some work and my poem “Roodhouse” was long-listed. It’s a poem about Roodhouse, Illinois, the town my mother grew up in. Here it is:
I went back to Roodhouse,
scratch of roads in the Illinois soil,
with my husband and my kids.
It was a bombed-out Beruit of a place,
backstreets full of trash,
smashed glass and porch socials.
Teen moms in extra-large T-shirts
holding dull and dirty babies on their laps
never smiled as they sat
waiting for something to happen.
It was summer, but there was no green,
just the colored metal cars
lining the streets,
two for each house, but one don’t work.
yet the sound of television
did waft through the neighborhood,
and the submerged sun
did give off some heat.
We drove slow through the square
eyes blighted by chipped red brick and
duct taped panes of glass
in shops where I had set foot
as a girl. Even then, things were
but not out.
There are ghosts in Roodhouse.
I could see them.
They sat in Mike Todd’s diner where teens
met on a Friday night,
and at the feed store
where men gathered to read the paper and chew.
Ladies in prim knee-length dresses
and sharp little hats traveled from
the pharmacy to the butcher, to the beauty parlor
and the library,
and in the park, benches painted thick
with enamel green
waited for tired 1940 feet to rest.
And Grandma and Mrs. Kemp were only there
in memory, no longer feeding children
PAUL: Have you developed a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?
KAREN: Things strike me at different times. All during 2021 I was writing almost every morning. Sometimes I like to work in that 4-6 p.m. time, and other times I’ll be in my office at night. I carry a notebook with me in case I get inspired when I’m out and about.
PAUL: What is your actual writing process like, and how do you go about starting and shaping a poem?
KAREN: All I know is some things come out like whole cloth and other things I work over for days or months. I tend to write long and then go back in and whittle things down. I try to say more with less, and I am always digging into the thesaurus looking for unusual words.
PAUL: Could you please speak about your poetry word series by Poets at Large, and why, when, and how you started it?
KAREN: Sure! So back in 2020, my book came out and there were no regular venues to hold readings at to promote it due to the pandemic. I decided to try to find some outdoor locations where we could have poetry readings. First, I lined up the parking lot at Booklovers Gourmet in Webster, and we had a successful August event there with Paul Richmond, Robert Eugene Perry, Ron Whittle, Candace Curran, and myself reading. I also went to Roseland Park to ask about using its new outdoor amphitheater. When talking to the park’s manager, Rick Harless, he said he could give me the barn. That was thrilling because the barn is where people have wedding receptions and family parties, and it’s charming but pricey. All the weddings were canceled in 2020, so he generously offered us the barn. We had two readings there, one in September and one in October, and about 50 people attended each one. Since those were successful, I thought we should hold more, so we did more last summer, and now this year besides the three events we’ll have at Roseland, we’re holding four readings at the Singh Performance Center in Whitinsville, MA. I sent out sponsorship requests to local businesses and got some great financial support from the community to help pay gas money to the poets and do advertising. We were able to use the Singh Center simply because I had the temerity to ask. You never know what will happen if you just ask! All these readings are free to the public.
PAUL: My final question of the evening is what advice would you give to someone who is just starting to write poetry?
KAREN: Just dive in. There are so many types of poetry, so many ways to create a story
and relay your message. It’s a great world with so many poets to explore and workshops to help you with the craft of writing. You will make amazing friendships in this world. Keep at it and you will be rewarded in unexpected ways.
PAUL: Well, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Karen, thank you so much for such thoughtful and informative answers. Now, folks, please enjoy the poetry of Karen Warinsky:
KAREN: The first three poems I’ll be presenting here tonight are in my book Gold in Autumn (Human Error Publishing, 2020). I’ll start with “Spanish Town” which first appeared in the 2018 edition of Light: A Journal of Photography & Poetry…
Let me stand in a dusty Spanish town at one o’clock,
the hottest of the day,
when lunch makes bellies heavy,
thoughts fog and streets clear as people head for siestas,
the hum of unseen bugs playing ancient music.
Sit in a round-backed, wooden chair at a street café,
sip impossibly bitter coffee from a tiny, porcelain cup,
decaled with a pattern I would never choose.
Watch locals bring their children and packages home,
glimpse lovers walk out of warm stone buildings
on their way to supper,
as shadows climb across the streets.
Could find renewal in an unknown place,
mysteries flowing over me,
language and music juddering through my being,
dust of other pasts settling on my shoulders,
mist from a different sea become my breath.
Might free myself from old expectations;
ready myself for a Revolution.
—Karen Warinsky (originally published in Light: A Journal of Photography & Poetry)
Next is “Some Nights” which first appeared online at Fried Chicken and Coffee: online home of Rusty Barnes in 2012…
There were ways to survive it–
small town life. It required shoe leather,
empty basements with record players and a couch,
Boones Farm, a six pack, some reefer;
John, Linda, Bob and James to sing us what was real.
It required thermoses full of sloe gin fizz,
shrimp baskets from Robert’s Drive Inn,
Monty Python at 10 p.m. on Sunday,
the carnival every June, part-time jobs.
We had been to church; were baptized and
confirmed. Did good up to a point. Then we
awakened to our dad’s dead-end jobs and our
mother’s endless desires for a new car, a new winter coat
and a finished basement; their longings for
paved driveways they could ride on into society
weighted down our hearts.
We weren’t sure what that meant for us,
but the time clock in the factory taught us our worth,
and some nights we climbed up on the hood of the car,
watched the sun go down into the cornfield
and planned our escape.
—Karen Warinsky (originally published online at Fried Chicken and Coffee)
This third poem first appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of the Blue Heron Review…
Life from a lawn chair can be lived in full.
Listen! Birds are speaking.
They don’t mind if you try to crack the code.
Sun and cloud pass overhead.
Acknowledge them from your lowly, prone position,
for they are moving on, no matter what you do.
Let the cats come circle the chair,
lie beside you.
Feel all the bits of rebirth poking through the crunched detritus of winter,
green babies forcing life back into all; buds, shoots, stalks.
See parachute puffs of seeds drift toward tender spots to land and grow.
They fly all around you in your chair, and you fly, too,
race to other times, other places, other springs,
when the humid warmth, the breeze,
the deep scent of fields filled your senses, and you lived
running free, shoes off, hair wild behind you,
living as sky, as earth, as wind.
—Karen Warinsky (originally published in Blue Heron Review)
Next, I will share three pieces that are in my new book, Sunrise Ruby, coming out later in 2022. The first piece appeared this spring in Consilience, a publication out of the UK that marries poetry with science…
we tug them from the earth
rebirth them into consciousness,
read rock carvings like history lessons,
seek recognition in ancient reflections.
What comes to the surface
beyond stone and bone,
is love and hate
fear and ignorance,
The virus was powerful,
it charged through the community,
colonist and native,
rich and poor,
and a little planting of the variola
The smallpox hospital
but afternoons they’d walk to Brookfield’s caves,
carve their initials or a sentence
into the granite and the schist
making their own memorials,
—Karen Warinsky (originally published in Consilience)
This poem is based on an article I read that said people continue to discover many Native American petroglyphs and Colonial inscriptions lost in the deep forests of New England. The inscriptions referenced in this piece were found in the “smallpox caves” of Brookfield, MA where recovering patients were allowed to visit on afternoon walks from the hospital in the 1700s/1800s. One of the Brookfield inscriptions says, “I had smallpox here April 19, 1788. I.A.” and is said to have been carved by Israel Allen, a former Revolutionary War soldier.
This second poem is titled “Forgotten City” and is a poem about Syria, in particular how the archeologists there are troubled that refugees within that country are now living among ancient ruins. I found this to be distressing on a number of levels. It was first published in a 2021 edition of Circumference.
to the stubbled hills
to the ancient stones
though archeologists with lithified hearts bewail:
refugees are moving the rocks!
Who cares about refugees?
pommeled and pounded
ten years now
live among the ruins of Byzantine,
Nestling against half-walls
rose-pink in the dawn,
they pen their animals,
prop their tents,
hear the wind call their ancestors;
Nefeli, Justus, Theodora, Kadir,
hear it repeat
old glories of the past in this northwest land,
Assad’s poisoned hand not yet touching this final sanctuary
while cement-filled historians and archeologists
fret about the displacement of the marble,
the zahr, the basalt,
the integrity of the site,
as the people maneuver themselves
inside the consequence of war.
—Karen Warinsky (originally published in Circumference)
For the final poem in my feature this evening, I’ve selected “Petroglyph,” a piece I really love which was first published last year on Verse-Virtual…
O world of tangled troubles,
tribes, flags and furies,
with drought-full summers
or ages of rain,
winters bleeding into April,
swampy back roads,
fumy asphalt city streets…
I want to love you!
I want to love you with the outstretched
arms of the Chilean petroglyph man,
300 feet of him reaching out to you, to us,
arms stretched like a horizontal road to nowhere,
body spread open, bare,
his back against your rough soil
shouting his message to the sky:
I am here!
I am here!
I want to love you
as the ice caps melt,
and fires devour forests.
I want to love you like the
geoglyphs dug into your soil
thousands of years ago,
love you like the Atacama Giant,
his spiked hair grabbing moonlight
pointing the way to the seasons,
love you like the white horses of England,
galloping on ancient hillsides,
run with them into the future.
—Karen Warinsky (originally published online in Verse-Virtual)
PAUL: That was just incredible, Karen! Thank you so very much! Everybody, let’s show our appreciation for such an amazing feature by putting our hands together, and giving a humungous round of applause for Karen Warinsky!
We’ll be taking a short intermission in a few minutes before we come back with our virtual open mic, but now it’s once again time to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. Even if you are a long-time Poetorium regular, you still might not remember way back in July 2019 (when the Poetorium poetry readings were still live) that we rewrote the classic Wallace Steven poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” as our group poem. Well, this month, we once again used that classic poem as a template, but this time we substituted the word “dandelion” for “blackbird”. In order to participate, people were asked to send us one to eight lines containing either the word “dandelion” or “dandelions”. I want to thank Ariel Potter, Dwayne Szlosek, Howard J Kogan, Karen Durlach, and Angela (aka Poetisatinta) for contributing and making the following poem possible:
Six Different Ways of Looking at a Dandelion
Pinching out early weeds from the March mud,
Wet roots giving up easily,
Leaving naked beds to welcome new seed
Careful to leave the rosettes of jagged leaves
That promise of dandelion,
Their golden smile not a weed here
Until their white fluff flies off
To harass the neighbors.
Do the mayflowers tremble
When they hear the dandelion roar?
Dandelions delight the early bees, frustrate the lawn perfectionist
delight the poet by rhyming with Mayan and Zion
implying there there is a dandelion
in play in the deepest yellow-headed way
“Do not cut off the dandelions’ heads!”
I cried to my father at five years old.
“They are tiny yellow Muppets,
And I love them…”
Dandelions are a nuisance to a perfect lawn.
But such a perfect pretty flower of bright yellow
It is bright like the sun,
but if you put the dandelion flower under your chin
your chin will become yellow with fun.
People want to know how it is done.
And you will tell them it is magic
(That’s how it’s done…)
The dandelion’s feathers
have already flown
their offspring rise
and lean towards the sun
peeking over wild grass
sunbeams – everyone.
—The April 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem
Well, folks, that concludes the first half of tonight’s Virtual Poetorium. We are going to take a brief intermission so you can get a drink, use the facilities, take a moment to reflect on all the fantastic poetry you have heard so far or perhaps even purchase a copy of our featured poet Karen Warinsky’s first collection of poems Gold in Autumn (you’ll be happy that you did). When we come back, I will be starting our virtual open mic.
PAUL: Welcome back, everybody! Please find a seat…
Okay, I going to kick off tonight’s open mic, as I usually do, with a poem of my own. It is a piece I originally presented at our very first Virtual Poetorium way back in March 2020, The poem, which I wrote for my cousin Dwayne Szlosek (who is here tonight and will be reading his own work later on in the open mic), is a beau présent, a French poetry form interestingly invented by an American writer, Harry Matthews. It is best described as a short poem written as a gift or affectionate tribute to another person using only the letters available in that person’s name. Here it is:
A BEAU PRÉSENT FOR DWAYNE SZLOSEK
(MY COUSIN AND CHILDHOOD COMPANION)
On lazy weekends, we’d snooze,
Awake woozy and dazed,
And swallow anise and seaweed soda,
We’d walk dense snowy woodlands,
Sneak down dank dead-end alleyways.
We’d saddle a seesaw, lasso a donkey,
Slay a dozen deadly snakes and eels.
We doodled and drew yellow yaks,
Woolly weasels, and walleyed koalas.
We yelled, yodeled and kazooed as
Annoyed newlywed ladies looked on.
Nowadays, we allow no nonsense,
No looneyness. We analyze essays
and lessons, know only a swollen
sense of loss, a deadness,
needless sadness and woe.
O Dwayne, we need a new deal –
Say we skedaddle, sail away
on a slow wooden yawl on
an endless odyssey and seek
new lands and zany old ways?
Yes? Okay? Okey dokey! Yay!
We’ll do so on Wednesday!
Before I introduce our first two poets in tonight’s open mic, I probably need to mention our Monthly Virtual Poetorium Photo Poetry Prompt Project that we launched this January in which I send a batch of five photos each month to everyone on our Poetorium mass email list to hopefully inspire you to write some new poetry. Well, it just happens that our first two poets will both be presenting poems they wrote based on pictures I sent out in the last batch earlier this month.
So now that I have that awkward explanation out of the way, please give a warm welcome to the first poet in her second appearance at the Poetorium, traveling all the way from Southport, North Carolina, Ami Offenbacher-Ferris (known to her close friends and relatives as Gypsie)…
All the following pieces were written in response to Paul’s April’s Batch of Virtual Poetorium Poetry Prompt Photos…
She did not believe it. Not now and not ever. She refused to allow one inkling of their suggestion to enter her mind, or heart.
“Babe, be reasonable before you freak out and end up like your mother as well, two in the family are quite enough!” That certainly elicited a response from his young wife.
She turned at him, glowering.
“Don’t you even think it husband mine! Should I ever display those kinds of barbaric, heinous tendencies in your presence, you’ve my express permission to shoot me dead!” Tears ran down her high, plump cheeks.
“I’ll keep that in mind, Babe,” he pretended to ruminate on her statement in earnest until she nailed him squarely in the face with one of her fluffy, lace trimmed decorator pillows; the ones no one was allowed to actually use.
She laughed and loved him even more for making her laugh. Things would be alright, she just knew it.
Growing serious once again, she tucked the pretty pillow under her neck, arms and breasts, unconsciously rocking back and forth.
He pulled her into his arms, cradling her head against his chest. The pillow was tossed toward the headboard where it lay until she deftly returned it to its original resting place.
A shrill scream of pain and subsequent silence pierced the air and their ears.
The boy stood on the top stair, their prized goose hanging by the neck, limp in his tight little fists.
—Gypsie~Ami Offenbacher-Ferris (originally posted on her blog Gypsie’s Writings, Musings, Quotes & Poetry)
Though little is known
about the life of a gnome,
One thing is quite clear
and will allay all your fears.
While brusque and sometimes rude
Nothing but goodness does he exude.
He sits all day without a fuss,
guarding our gardens for all of us.
He sits so long and sits so well
his burley self gets stuck a spell.
But have no worry friend or foe,
He’s up real quick when it’s time to mow!
There Is a House
There is a house
way down that hill
People live there still
In that house
you were born
While I was shucking corn
You came to me
and stayed with me
Like fruit upon the tree
Your pa and me
on bended knee
Worked late into the eve
We did not know
how could we know
The hand that God would show
At ten years old
you were deemed a man
The foreman with cuffs he clad
Your wrists behind your back
pa fought to get you free – I cried
We’ll get you back some day my son
I didn’t know then
that I lied.
—Gypsie~Ami Offenbacher-Ferris (originally posted on her blog Gypsie’s Writings, Musings, Quotes & Poetry)
PAUL: Thank you so much, Gypsie! Well, our second poet in the open mic agreed to appear at tonight’s Virtual Poetorium to present his poem based on one of my prompt photos only if I would introduce him under a false name. So please welcome the mysterious Mr. X…
The Old Man and the Sea
I know I was here for a reason, but what was it?
I went to the store to get bread, but how did I get here?
I hope I did not park the car in that puddle.
Dam kids riding their skateboards got me so pissed.
My legs hurt, I wish there was someplace to sit.
When I was a kid I could get gas for $0.75, now I get it for free,
shouldn’t have had that burrito.
I remember that bad storm in 1971,
can’t remember what kind of storm it was.
Well, I better get going,
I think I am supposed to be somewhere…
PAUL: Thank you, Mr, X! Although our next poet attended some of our very first live Poetorium shows, she is making her debut appeatance tonight at the Virtual Poetorium. Please welcome, Karen Durlach…
I wake up.
Isn’t that a miracle?
—Karen Durlach (3/28/22)
I pull out the tray of miracles to water
tiny green leaves on slender stalks
reaching eagerly for their artificial sun,
hopeful of warmer days when they will play and grow in natural breezes.
Out falls the Mourning Cloak from wherever it was hiding this time,
dull and dusty brown tattered wings, this butterfly
which came in from the woodpile and has lived with us this winter
enchanting us with surprise appearances.
When the house is warmed and the sun beats outside the window
he/she beats inside on our side, flexing stiff winter wing muscles,
her imperative to fly toward the light awakened,
stifled by our knowledge she will die out there in the snow and cold
or be snapped up by a protein-starved bird.
Imprisoned, she appears with tremors from periodic stasis,
her wings flutter, flap, urgent.
We offer sugared water and the long proboscis uncurls occasionally to sip.
I worry cobwebs will entangle her in some dark neglected corner she retreats to again.
Today, from wherever she has hidden, she tumbles to the floor, lies keeled over.
Gently I stand this should-be-dead creature on the sugar cup,
place her in a clean dark spot and will check later
to see if she has revived and vanished once more.
Later, a strong burst of wings catches my eye.
From secret crevice to windowsill,
face and clubbed antennae press to the warmed glass
she can’t ever understand.
With open wings, a dotted line of purply-blue scales accent black borders
which span the space between faded yellow margins and the red-brown wings,
battered and torn, the leading tips frayed,
the wear of a short but hectic life.
Orange spots on her abdomen’s flanks show
through the delicate russet hairs, worn away in spots.
I can see the seam of the two halves of her tubelike tongue
as she probes the sugary water I have offered in a jar lid.
Splayed wings, now warmed, close tight over her body.
Only the dull gray brown of tree bark visible.
When I’m not looking she heads for another temporary hideout.
We both long for spring and release.
-–Karen Durlach (3/28/22)
Meantime, the Howl
(or, for Ukraine, bigotry, climate disruption and our other mistakes)
It’s not fair!
“Whoever said life was fair,” they said
when I stomp my foot and pout.
Crying alone in my corner
I did all the right things.
It’s not my fault!
It’s ALL my fault.
I’m drowning, day after crazy day.
I want to scream.
I want to cover my eyes.
Stop up my ears.
Go back to normal, but…
Try as we might, humankind makes bad choices,
We just do it better now,
vaster repercussions, less redo options.
A glacier, a grain of pollen,
so much beauty, so many wonders.
I want to tunnel vision on nature, infinitesimal complexities:
the grain of pollen, the mountain, the interdependence.
I want to stick my head in the proverbial sand and see not the darkness
but the eternal vastness, renewal and light.
I guess I’ll get my chance at that soon.
—Karen Durlach (3/27/22)
From the cold dark winter night air
insightful phrases try to climb from under the blankets.
My fingers resist, hide in pockets,
my brain says both “go away” and “remember.”
But I don’t.
A poem begs for presence, clawing its way to becoming.
A phrase repeats and repeats,
unscribbled words looking for light.
I resist their intense insistence to wake me
and mourn them come dawn.
PAUL: Thank you so much, Karen! Next up is a loyal attendee of the Virtual Poetorium, as well as one of our past featured poets, Howard Kogan…
HOWARD: Here’s an early Mother’s Day poem…
I was your son for thirty-eight years
I’ve been your orphan even longer
It’s not as different as you’d imagine
I don’t worry about you now
But the feeling of absence
Is still present
It’s not that you weren’t there
You were always there
But your presence
Was an absence
And now that you’re gone
It feels like you’re here
But I don’t know where
—Howard J Kogan
PAUL: Thanks, Howard! Now please welcome Worcester-area poet, humorist, and host of the Poetry Extravaganza reading series, Joe Fusco Jr.…
Joe and Jerry
We share our home with a mouse now.
He breaks into our snacks then craps on the linoleum floor in our pantry.
We tried to catch him with glue traps but I tired of extracting glue off the bottom of my sneakers.
Finally, we just capitulated and welcomed him into our family.
I bought him a tiny recliner, Brie cheese, and the Steinbeck CliffsNotes.
He agreed to wear protection while fornicating.
Life, when one is older, is a series of minor compromises.
Besides, we haven’t seen an elephant in the house for weeks!
—Joe Fusco Jr.
William age 6: Pee, tubby, comb hair, brush teeth, put on pajamas. Papa reads three books starting with Basketball Superstar LeBron James, then Pete the Cat, finally A Trolls’ Halloween. Willie and Papa sing You Are My Sunshine, then Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, finally Randy Newman’s In Germany Before The War. Ceiling Fan on, White Noise on, Musical Elephant playing. Kiss Mimi and Papa goodnight. Sweet Dreams!
Papa age 66: Pee, shower with pouf, check mole on ass, shave, pluck nose and ear hairs, floss then brush teeth, put on something silky. Pee again. Take Ambien, watch CNN then Fox News, check out latest Salma Hayek Instagram, Facebook, play Warren Zevon’s Life’ll Kill Ya on Echo Dot. Pee again. Kiss Cyndi goodnight, close bedroom windows, put on CPAP mask, adjust body pillow. Benign Nightmares!
—Joe Fusco Jr.
Thank you, Joe. And now, here is our featured poet from last month, Tom Ewart (otherwise known as tommywart):
Oscars: the Grouch
A Black man slapped another Black
in front of a global audience,
and ever since we have tried
to make sense of it. But what’s
to make? It’s just humans going back
to what’s in their genes, it seems:
the urge to strike, the fear to resist,
wanting to know the killing blow first.
Violence doesn’t solve anything,
but it does offer balm to its host,
as it does its worst to what we bring
to the table: the desire for most
of what we do to germinate
the flower of acceptance
of the other, even those who’re just
trying to make a living telling jokes.
PAUL: Thank you so much, Tom. And now last but not least in tonight’s virtual Poetorium open mic is the person featured in the poem which I opened the open mic up with, my cousin and a great poet and writer, Dwayne Szlosek, who will present the latest installment in his “Nine Gun Billy” saga…
Nine Gun Billy 10
July 4th, 1880 – I am Billy Gunn.
Me and my cousin Paul make it to White Bear Lake
near Minneapolis/St Paul where the last two members
of the Reapers remain. They are in a cabin right next
to the lake and a pine grove. There are two windows
in the front and a door. We stay hidden behind the pine trees.
We take out our field glasses to have a better look,
to see if they are inside the cabin, and they are.
The two men, Wilkes Hang and White Nissen.
looks like they are playing cards. So far they have not seen us.
There is a big rock and two wagons out front.
If we can make it to the wagon closest to the cabin,
without being seen, this should be a short firefight.
We get to the rock, so far so good, we have not been seen.
Now we got to make it to those wagons and then to the one
that is closest to the cabin with the two Reapers inside.
We make it to that wagon that is closest to the cabin door.
Paul has his double-barrel shotgun. He runs towards the door
with his shotgun in hand. He pulls the trigger, blows the door off its hinges
, and rushes into the cabin, shooting White Nissen, killing him dead.
Paul yells out to Wilkes Hang, “Don’t go for your pistol, Wilkes,
don’t go for it, not if you don’t want your brains splattered all over
like fertilizer in a cornfield!” Wilkes yields, puts up his hands,
and walks out of the cabin. Paul has his scattergun pointed at Wilkes,
as he walks behind him. I look Wilkes in the eye.
I ask him “Do you know who we are? Or do you know who I am?
Wilkes says “No.”, so I tell him. “I am the son of Davis and Margaret Gunn,
and the brother of their daughter Sarah.
You and your men raped and killed my mother and sister,
and set fire to the Gunn Ranch. “Wilkes replies “You should have heard
your mother and sister scream for mercy…”
My blood boils, so I just shoot him in the gut, letting him die slowly.
He begs for mercy as me and my cousin leave him there to die.
Just before we leave, I burn all the Reapers’ shrouds,
there ending the terror that rained down on everyone.
Then we head for home. Afterwards, I hear it takes him
three days to die…
Nine Gun Billy
—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 4\14\ 2022)
I hope everyone enjoyed Nine Gun Billy tonight.
And thank you. good night to all, you’ve been great!
PAUL: Thank you, Dwayne!
Well, that concludes tonight’s open mic. I want to thank everyone who read tonight including our feature Karen Warinsky! I would like to close out tonight’s show with a poem of mine that first appeared in the anthology Hope Through Community: Words and Images in Response to a Global Pandemic compiled by Cynthia Franca & Cheryl Perreault…
A Song For Those Who Cannot Sing
This is a song for those who cannot sing
a song for those who cannot bring
the music in their hearts into the world
without someone screaming,
“Pipe down and cut out that caterwauling!”
This is a song for the sixth-grade boy
who is told by his singing coach
he has a range of just two notes-
both of them off-key.
This is a song for those whom carrying a tune
is a lot like carrying some foul-smelling liquid
in a sieve, something’s flowing
but it sure ain’t no melody!
This is a song for those who can only
let their voices ring out under
the cover of the auditory camouflage
of running water or heavy machinery
unless they be mistaken for the family pet
being sucked down the garbage disposal.
This is a song, a simple reminder
that in singing, like in most endeavors
those who can-
flaunt it in our faces.
Those who cannot-
whine and write poetry!
—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Hope Through Community: Words and Images in Response to a Global Pandemic)
Well, good night everyone! I hope that you enjoyed tonight’s Virtual Poetorium, and we will see you all back here again in May when our featured poet is scheduled to be the prize-winning poet and novelist from New Hampshire, Kevin King…