Virtual Poetorium (April 28, 2020)


The Virtual Poetorium
April 28, 2020

Ron Whittle

RON: Good evening everyone!   I hope everyone is surviving being locked up in your houses.

This COVID-19 has been nothing but bad news for everyone.  But the good news is we are together once again for another night of fun and friendship.   The place is packed which is good news for our extra special guest speaker Eileen Cleary.  So we, that is Paul and I, have put together another great show for you guys.  But before we get started, I have a few thank you’s to send out.  First off , thank you, Demetri Kasperson, for allowing us the use of the stage side of Starlite Lounge.  Secondly once again, I want to thank Anne Marie. This month, Anne Marie baked for us her world famous chocolate chip cookies to cheer everyone up.  I already snuck a few before the show started, you’re going to like them mmmmmmm!  So we have a big show tonight, lots of people signed up on the sign-up sheet.   Because of limited time, I’m going to dispense with reading the rules of the show and jump right in and start the show off with a poem.  Actually i have two that I am going to read.  Neither have titles…


She takes me on rides
through the complexity
of thought
My mind becomes a frenzy
of poetic words
none that will never reach paper
To singular, to be poetry
yet words beyond letters
are feelings
so desperate to be released
that I lay down my armor
and sword
long enough to
reach for neverland
I search for more than her skin
more than her essence
I wish to have all of her
and everything that she is
and will become
I am addicted to her
and will be forever
I can not get enough
of her flavor
to satisfy all that I am
and want to become for her
The desires of my demons
play well with hers
and together
fan the flames of tomorrow
And even though our chemistry
may well be the strangest of them all
Could it be possible
that this universe
may well have fought
to keep what is good
together in this neverland of love

—Ron Whittle

And for those of you who do not know me well enough, I like to throw curve balls every now and again.  I have a very short piece I wrote that will, well you judge for yourself


Once I made love
to her on paper
Once while holding
her hand
and once when
we slow danced
When everyone
was looking
when only we knew
what was going on
Love can almost be
made anywhere
if you’re daring
enough to try

—Ron Whittle

Okay it’s time to turn the show over to Paul, take it away before I go find a dance partner…..

PAUL: Thanks, Ron! Once again, it’s time for the Spotlight on a Southbridge Poet. For our purposes, the definition of a Southbridge Poet  is one who was either born, raised, lived, or died in the town of Southbridge, Massachusetts where we usually hold the Poetorium at Starlite. For example, since I was born and raised there, I would qualify, but Ron, who was born in Shrewsbury, (as I am constantly reminding him) would not. As I mentioned during the last Poetorium, it seems that we may soon be running out of poets to feature. Not that there aren’t a lot of very talented poets from Southbridge, but I am having difficulty getting access to their poetry. Because of this, tonight we are revisiting a poet already honored last year. Although little remembered today, Michael Earls (with the possible exception of William Tremblay) might be the most notable poet ever to come out of Southbridge. The oldest of ten children, he was born to Irish immigrant parents in Southbridge where he later attended school. A Jesuit  Priest as well as a professor of  Rhetoric and administrator at Holy Cross College in Worcester, he was the author of six volumes of poetry, two novels, and  a collection of short stories. He was well known in the literary circles of his day, and was supposedly good friends with both Joyce Kilmer, author of the infamous poem Trees, and G. K. Chesterton, who wrote the Father Brown  mystery stories. Another interesting tidbit of trivia about Earls is that there’s a stained glass window memorializing him  which can be seen at the Dinand Library on the campus of Holy Cross College. The following poem The Sailor, which may feel a bit dated today, is from his book  “Ballads of  Peace in War” originally published over a hundred years ago in 1917:

The Sailor

A sailor that rides the ocean wave,
And I in my room at home:
Where are the seas I fear to brave,
Or the lands I may not roam?
At the attic window I take my stand,
And tighten the curtain sail,
Then, ahoy! I ride the leagues of land,
Whether in calm or gale.

Tree at anchor along the road
Bow as I speed along;
At sunny brooks in the valley I load
Cargoes of blossom and song;
Stories I take on the passing wind
From the plains and forest seas,
And the Golden Fleece I yet will find,
And the fruit of Hesperides.

Steady I keep my watchful eyes,
As I range the thousand miles,
Till evening tides in western skies
Turn gold the cloudland isles;
Then fast is the hatch and dark the screen,
And I bring my cabin light;
With a wink I change to a submarine
And drop in the sea of Night.

—Michael Earls

Ron and I are so excited to have Eileen Cleary as our featured poet for tonight’s Virtual Poetorium. As you might recall, Eileen was originally scheduled to be our feature for tonight’s actual Poetorium at Starlite in Southbridge before the COVID-19 crisis and the current days of social distancing began. She has since been rescheduled for November 24th when hopefully things will be relatively back to normal. and we can all meet in person once again. Meanwhile she has graciously agreed to be our feature in this our second Virtual Poetorium. Before we ask her up to the virtual stage to be interviewed, I’d like to tell you a little bit about her:

Eileen-Cleary-headshot- 3x4
Eileen Cleary

Eileen Cleary, a nurse and poet living in Massachusetts, is a graduate of Lesley University’s  and Solstice of Pine Manor’s MFA program and a 2016 and 2018 nominee for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry. Her poetry has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, J Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, West Texas Literary Review, Incessant Pipe, Sugar House Review and many other literary journsls. She has been an assistant poetry editor at Carve Magazine, and is Editor-in-Chief of the Lily Poetry Review, and Lily Poetry Review Books
as well as the co-founder and host the Lily Poetry Salon. passionate about poetry’s ability to transcend human suffering, and its witness of humanity . Her first poetry collection, Child Ward of the Commonwealth, was published by Main Street Rag Press in 2019, and her second one  2 A. M. with Keats  (Nixes Mate, 2020.) has just come out.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to Eileen Cleary!

RON: Good evening Eileen. Welcome to our stage! Please have a seat.
We are so glad to see that you have made it somewhat through this pandemic we are all facing, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for being one of the first liners. We do love our heroes and please consider you’re as one. As you know we like to interview our guest speakers because most of the time we know nothing about the personal parts of our guest speaker’s lives. Believe me, this audience really does want to get to know you. Personally, I think it makes for a better read by our guest Poets. so with all that said my first question is; I read many of your poems in your book ” Child Ward of the Commonwealth”. I found them riveting and yet very sad at times. I guess what we want to know is who or what influenced you to start writing poetry?

EILEEN: I first encountered poetry as a child when I read Robert Frost and EmilyDickinson. Later, I found myself drawn to dozens of poets, and then scores more. I’ve always loved words, how one word can have so many connotations. I loved how syllables sound together and how groups of words fit to one another. I realized that I was a poet during a course on Medical Ethics at Simmons College. I did not know how to respond to the idea that scientific research had been performed on fragile populations without their consent. I reacted to The Tuskegee Experiment, in which almost 400 black Americans with syphilis were offered no medical treatment, by writing a poem. This was transformative, and I could not go back to being a person who didn’t write poetry.

RON: Who are your favorite poets? And what is it you like about them?

EILEEN: Some of the authors I return to over and over are Kathy Nilsson, Lucie-Brock Broido, Alice Monroe, Margaret Atwood, Emily Dickinson, Marie Howe, Wislawa Szmborska, Louise Bogan, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Gary Soto, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Jean Follain, W.S, Merwin, Richard Wilbur, Franz Wright, Jack Gilbert, Louise Gluck, Rhina P. Espaillat, Paul Celan, Tomas Transtromer, Czelaw Milosz, Charles Simic, Ilya Kaminsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, Martha Collins, William Carlos Williams , Cate Marvin, Jason Reynolds, Kevin Prufer, Nicole Terez Dutton, Seamus Heaney and Erin Belieu. And now I’m heartbroken, because I can’t name them all. What I like about their poems is that it is possible to come under the spell of them, there is a little world in every poem.

RON: How would you describe the type of poetry you write?

EILEEN: I write mostly lyric narratives. Mostly free verse, but with formal elements.

RON: I understand you’re a Nurse. I am a cancer patient at the VA hospital in Boston. I would like to tell you a short story before the next question. After my last operation, I was in for BCG treatment and one of the Nurse’s and I got to talking . I told her I was a Poet and she wanted to know more. She asked if I could read something to her. I couldn’t and that on the next visit a week later I gave her two of my books. Later on, while she was performing the treatment on me. I read to her several pieces, one of them she gasped and cried a little. Just so you know it was really strange to be on an operating room table reading poetry pretty much buck naked. So here is my question: have you ever read any of your poetry to any of your patients?

EILEEN: I have never read any of my poems to patients, though I have read other poetry to patients and on a few special occasions, they have read their poetry to me.

RON: Many of your friends on facebook have read on this stage. And I have asked all of them is there anything in their poems hidden that’s is a joke between a friend or a secret between friends? And if so would you tell us?

EILEEN: That’s such a good question!

RON: Okay…Paul, do you have any questions you’d like to ask Eileen?

PAUL: Yes, I do. Thanks, Ron! Eileen, could you tell us a little about the Lily Poetry Review such as how and when it started, and your role as its editor-in-chief?

EILEEN: I’d been fantasizing about starting a literary magazine for about five years before Lily Poetry Review. I imagined being able to include beautiful poems of various aesthetics in the journal. I put the idea aside and worked as an Assistant Poetry Editor at Carve Magazine. I learned a lot in that position and knew I’d like to run a journal that focused on poetry. It then seemed logical next step to start the Review. I expanded into publishing books because there are so many unpublished, beautiful and deserving manuscripts. I wanted to be a part of putting them into the world.

I have a wonderful team of talented poets and editors who help me with the journal and Martha McCollough is the layout artist and book designer. I read every book manuscript we receive. But, I also believe it is important to trust other poets and readers to ensure our journal and press is inclusive and has a wide aesthetic.

PAUL: I assume the Lily Poetry Salon is an offshoot of the Review? Can you tell us exactly what it is and how and why it began?

EILEEN: The Lily Poetry Salon started because a group of my friends wanted to meet regularly and talk about poetry. At first, we thought we might form a private workshop, but that seemed to be about work and not as much pure joy. My friends Christine Jones and Robbie Gamble talked about how we could continue to get together and enjoy poetry. We were meeting at the poet Mani Iyer’s home. Mani is a deaf-blind poet from Needham, who attended Lesley University with me. We thought, why not bring readers to Mani’s to read from their works, socialize and then, talk about their poetry. At that time, we were all just finishing up our MFA program and we were hungry for those conversations with “established” poets. Five years in, we still are.

PAUL: Eileen, my final question of the night for you is do you have any advice for beginning poets?

EILEEN: My best advice for beginning poets is to read a lot of poetry. If you are mesmerized by an author, ask yourself why. Write in as many forms as you can –villanelles, sonnets, haiku, pantoums– all of them.

Try not to edit as you write. Allow yourself to write badly and then, allow yourself to write better. Write with joy and energy and not to publish but to practice—the publishing will come. It can’t be rushed. You are an artist and creating art takes time and mastery. All poets are practicing to become better at their craft.

Once you build confidence or begin writing regularly, find some trusted readers who have been at this longer with whom to share your work. Join a critique group or writer’s meet-up. Read at open-mics and attend readings. Keep at it. We need your poems.

PAUL: Wow! Thank you so much, Eileen, for such great advice as well as a wonderful, thought-provoking interview.

Now, folks, please sit back and enjoy as Eileen Cleary presents selected poems from her first collection of poetry, Child Ward of the Commonwealth:

On My Two-Year-Old Brother Gone Missing

Not his ride-on pony,
but its print on the grass.

( )

Galloping white space gathering its fields.
Nicker whisper. Thunder burn.

( )

Once at Angelo’s grocery,
I reached for a small boy.

( )

Niobe at least,
had a corpse for each.

( )

We thought, perhaps Rhode Island.
Or a border town nearby.

( )

But, the stars on his face
haven’t mapped his way back.

( )

Turn off the afternoon.
Then, the sky.

—Eileen Cleary (originally published in “Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices” )

At the Fernald School for the Feeble Minded

For my brother

Parental consent is asked
for boys in the Science Club.

(Off Camera, Quaker
competes with Cream of Wheat

and pays for MIT
to spoon radioactive

oats to boys coaxed
with Red Sox and butterscotch,

a Mickey Mouse watch,
extra milk, toy boats─

no one mentions isotopes.)

( )

Panicked, Johnny wolfs a bowl
before a hungrier boy snatches it.

( )

Where brother means once
a year on Christmas

or his birthday. At this asylum
for children, thirty-six boys

in bare dorms. Cots
crammed together.

( )

Afield, grass blades
fluoresce the milkweed,

in whose anthers, angels breathe.
Who else might care

for the alumni
of the School for Morons

who once raised there,
belong there?

( )

Through dorm windows,
deer appear.

Their withers wet with river.
The boys watch until they vanish.

—Eileen Cleary (originally published in “The American Journal of Poetry”)


Five of us stuff
into the back like boots
into bulging luggage.

The car door opens.
My brother Michael
crams beside us,

his jagged elbows
careful not to stab.
All morning

my parents open
nip bottles, toss
them at their feet.

At a red light
my father slurs,
He should know

he’s not my son.
Mom cries, He’s sixteen
today. Not today.

What will he think of us?
Before the light changes
Michael jumps out.

My mother chases
and chases until Mike’s
the empty chair at her wake.

—Eileen Cleary (originally published in “The American Journal of Poetry”)

Foster Kid

Ask her name or where she lives. She answers:  Burke, Fitzpatrick.  Shaughnessey. Old family, new family.  Wake up, we’re home in Rockland, Salem,  Braintree. Her brothers: gone. Or born last week. Mothers: aunties or ma’ams. Leenie slurps noodles straight from a pan, stuffs liverwurst through porch slats, swallows  meatloaf, thin-sliced and too fast. While the real share dinner in the next room. She’s four, seven and just turned ten. Never an only, mostly an extra, always between.
In the next town over, it’s October again.

—Eileen Cleary (originally published in “The American Journal of Poetry”)

Potatoes, Their Various Moods

Your hand hesitates to reach
for potatoes alive

on your countertop
until you cook them.

Bless the tubers
who’ve known all along

this life was not their own.
Coffins were hard to come by

during the famine. We are all foxfire
or timber, decayed. We are not.

What I mean is, it’s early March.
Let’s see how the weather holds.

—Eileen Cleary (originally published in “Right Hand Pointing”)


Outside my hospice office, two men I pronounced dead visit as crows
on telephone poles. Their voices as soft as a morphine dose.
Parking lot pines don’t mind returning as pines. Then, a third death.
A woman I find in a Murphy bed under a skylight. Her eyes don’t absorb
this snapshot of how stars arranged themselves two thousand
years ago. I thought about the spaces the dead occupy,
especially my friend whom I did not pronounce, though I felt her
pulse wane while my ear pressed against her chest. I can’t find her.
One crow is an old man. The second, younger man had my friend’s eyes.
Now he’s a crow in the space of a few hours. The sky’s shedding its skin.
A woman is waiting for me to look for signs of life. This woman hasn’t
let go of her living yet. I do this for her: Stall.
Keep her family occupied. Give her time to leave. Tuesday morning
another pine carves a dark swan into its bark while six hawks hold up the sky.

—Eileen Cleary (originally published in “Incessant Pipe”)

PAUL: That was wonderful, Eileen! Such moving poetry! Folks, let’s give a big hand for tonight’s feature, Eileen Cleary!

Now we have come to the portion of our program where we pay tribute to a dead poet. Earlier we put out a call for suggestions, and the first person we heard from was Barbera Roberts. Barbera, could you come up on the virtual stage?

Barbera Roberts

Barbera, could you tell us whom you suggested?

BARBERA: Robert Service.

Robert Service

PAUL: An excellent suggestion! Robert Service is probably one of the most delightful storytelling poets of all time. Barbera, could you tell us why you chose him?

BARBERA: We [my husband Arthur and I] drove to Dawson in the Yukon; we visited his cabin and fell in love with his poetry…

PAUL: That is so great! Barbera will now present us with the three Robert Service poems that she selected for tonight’s Dead Poet Tribute. Take it away, Barbera!

BARBERA: The first poem is The Spell of the Yukon….

The Spell of the Yukon

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth—and I’m one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.

The summer—no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness—
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back—and I will.

They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight—and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell!—but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite—
So me for the Yukon once more.

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

—Robert Service

We also like The Cremation of Sam McGee…

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

—Robert Service

This [last poem] is perfect for our present situation…LOL

The Quitter

When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

—Robert Service

PAUL: Thank you, Barbera, those were wonderful choices.

We’ll be taking a short intermission in a few minutes before we come back with our virtual open mic, but now its time to present one of my favorite segments of the evening’s program – the reading of the monthly group poem. This month’s Poetorium Group poem was based on the surrealist game of Prophecies (also known as Conditionals). Participants were asked to write and send us four lines including one each of the following:

1. A short phrase in the present tense starting with the word “When” such as “When the oceans begin to boil,”.

2. A short phrase in the present tense starting with the word “If” such as “If your right elbow itches,” .

3. A short statement in the future tense using either the word “will” or “shall” such as “The President will sprout horns.” or “Hamsters shall rule the world.” .

4. A command written in the imperative such as “Lock the doors and hide beneath your bed”.

People ‘s lines from 1 & 2 were then randomly paired with someone elses lines from 3 & 4 to form brand new lines for our poem. Since 13 people contributed (and I want to thank all the amazing poets that chose to participate), the result was the following 26-line poem:

More Strange Prophecies and Surreal Advice From the Poetorium

When stars begin to fall, I shall live or die.

If I should wear a gas mask, be in better temperment!

If you ever know a New England April that leaves you cold and wet and sometimes covered in snow, this too shall pass, only much more painfully, like a kidney stone.

When dinosaurs fart, pour yourselves another round,
for none of you are saved.

When the sea forgets to listen, the kingdom of Gilead will rise up.

If you are not a ruminant, wash your hands with soap and hot water
for at least twenty seconds.

When dark despair washes over this land like India ink,
the beasts of the ocean shall rear up and wail.

If ants rule the world, they will fall from grace
and never wake before hitting the bottom.

If there’s a bond here built on shared demise,
you will leave your doors unlocked and travel to the sea.

When the moon waxes lavender, learn what it is like to grow old
and appreciate even a butt-destroying park bench which feels
like a second home to every ass thats sit there in the dead of winter.

When experiencing stomach upset,
Meek Mill will drop a polka dot and inherit Mars.

When the ladies start to wear leopard hats,
sink your hands into the broken earth.

When I finally shave my legs,
embace yourself and feel the relief.

If a pope and an antipope ever happen to accidentally make physical contact with each other, hide beneath my bed to get away from the smell.

If penguins sing madrigals at sunset,
take your children by the hand.

When crows fly backwards, their wings urging forward,
the women will rise from their melancholy.

If the teenagers refuse to blast music,
be sure to consult with a qualified career counselor.

When trumpets toll and trolls extoll the fair and balanced truth,
go get gophers and pre-empt the Wright Brothers’ first.

If browbeaten beetles decide to go bald,
we shall know the answers we are not permitted now.

If as a nation, we change out of these pajamas,
the world will wonder why we went and willfully obeyed.

If people partly possibly pretend to be aloof,
stay the hell at home.

When yellowjacket wasps begin to wear life vests,
you will find yourself withdrawing socially.

If feathers fall from the sky darkening the ground,
eat your orzo and practice playing the hautboy.

When you make a snow angel in April,
the gods will offer a blessing.

When night falls, and they become moon shadows in the corners,
capybaras shall surely surpass cats as the most popular animal
on the internet.

If the moon bends over your shoulder, suddenly the world shall go dark, and the last of the wordgasms and poetry porn will be exposed in broad daylight.

Well, that concludes the first part of the Virtual Poetorium. We are going to have a brief intermission so you can get take a moment to reflect on all the amazing poems you have heard so far and perhaps  even buy a copy of  Eileen Cleary’s  fantastic first full-length collection of poetry, Child Ward of the Commonwealth, at our virtual vendor’s table (you’ll be glad that you did). When we come back, Ron will be starting our virtual open mic.





Click Here to Purchase Child Ward of the Commonwealth by Eileen Cleary




RON: Okay, everyone lets find our seats again!

First up on the open mic is the very quiet, shy, and unassuming me
with a piece called Bridges:


Bridges are not for
the suicidal or
those on drugs
who think they can fly
or bungee jumpers who
seek the thrill of jumping
without the sudden stop
at the end of the plunge.

Bridges are for gaps
between here and there
and to get us to

Some are suspension,
others Iron, stone, or wood
and other yet are words
that take you
from where you are
to somewhere else.

Some bridges demand
tolls be paid
or dues be paid
in the use of words
to fill the gap
we want to span
In the case of roads
or the connection
between this sentence
and that one.

Remember Master
bridge builders are not
always engineers
but words are engineered
by word masters
in their use
to make it easy to get
from this side of a metaphor
to the other side of a lyric,
no matter the change
in form or meaning.

There is still one last bridge
that one day we must all cross
and that one is between
life and death
and the one we must
walk on alone –
a bridge built on a lifetime
of deeds, both good and bad.

—Ron Whittle

Next up on the open mic is Joan Erickson in her first appearance at the Poetorium (virtual or otherwise)…


Masks (Pandemic)

To be or not to be,
that is the question,
to wear or not to wear a mask
is the question.

First answer – No – only if near
a sick person.
Second – They don’t work.
Third – Let them be saved for
seriously ill.

Today – change – Everyone
should wear some kind of mask
when going out. Even just a scarf
over nose and mouth.

Okay, I’m not going anywhere –
but in case I do – got to find a scarf.
I search my scarf drawer. Try one –
not good – try another – not good.
Ah a small white scarf. I try it on –
fit over nose and mouth – work hard
to tie in back.

But guess what? I can’t breathe…

To breathe or not to breathe –
that is today’s question.

—Joan Erickson

RON: Next is Dwayne Szlosek, who was featured as the Southbridge Spotlight Poet at last month’s Poetorium…

Dwayne Szlosek

Confession Note

I am in the middle of the desert,
alone with a massive amount of granules.
Within it, i see a drop of water on one grain of sand.
I wish I could quench my thirst on that cool speck of liquid.
I have blisters on my face,
blood running down on the side of my cheeks.
My lips are split an sore from the hot sun beating down on them.
As i walk through the valley of the wasteland,
I wish for that cold crisp drink only mother nature can provide.
Now, I wish I did not disappoint God along the way for all the thing I did:
I shot an killed ten men.
Robbed twenty one banks.
I stole heads of beef cattle from a old couple
that put everything they had into it.
And now because of me, they have nothing.
I confess to these things.
I admit to them ALL!!
I am writing this to let someone know who I am.
My name is; Nine Gun Billy…

My name is Billy the Kid.
I found Nine Gun Billy, face down in the sand and this note in his hand…

—Dwayne Szlosek ( © 8-31-2019)

RON: Now please welcome back to the virtual podium, Barbera Roberts…


St. George and the Dragon – Retold

Once upon a time near the town of War Castle
A large egg long forgotten lay in a cave
The climate was warming up
Spring had come and flowers were blooming.
That which was inside pecked with its beak
to break the shell and out he came
The last living dragon to walk the earth.

In the small village of War Castle
Lived an young knight.
His faithful servant
Polished the knight’s armor every day
and kept his sword sharpened.
And the servant fed the knight’s horse
Curried his coat and braided his mane and tail.
The servant loved his master
And as a reward for his faithfulness
He was given a loft in the barn
To sleep in.

Spring blossomed into the summer
And the dragon grew at a fantastic rate.
His scales hardened and he practiced
breathing fire through both his mouth and his nostrils.
Meanwhile in the village the knight
Practiced mounting and dismounting his horse
And various sword fighting techniques.
He ran through mockups of humans enemies
Swore an oath to protect the village.
And everyone loved him.

The terror began one day.
A young shepherd boy had seen the dragon
Practicing breathing fire through his nose.
Afraid he ran to the village
“Help, help an evil dragon approaches our village
He will kill us all!”

Everyone called on the knight to defend their village.
The servant prepared the horse
Saddle and bridle – horse armor too.
The knight mounted up with all his weapons
The sunlight glinted off the steel.
Calling his faithful servant to his side
he said, “Come we shall defend the village and
gain fame and fortune. Be brave! Let’s kill the dragon.
Onward onward to the battle.”

The knight rode out into the fields around the village
and the servant ran behind trying to keep up
Winded and puffing he arrived at the crest of a hill
to see the dragon below.

“I shall run it through; I shall kill it and eat its flesh!
yelled the knight in heated ardor of aggression.

The faithful servant – who by some incredible
and wonderful circumstance could speak
The ancient language of long forgotten dragons.
had learned it in reading old manuscripts
by the fire on long winter evenings.

“Wait my master!” the servant said” Wait.
Perhaps I could first find out what
the dragon wants and learn of his story”.
“No time for that”, the knight replied and
Charged down the hill.

Unbeknownst to the knight
a badger hole was in his path.
the knight’s horse stepped in that
fortunate badger hole and fell
spilling the knight with a clatter to the ground.
Now the dragon had the upper hand
and the knight trapped in his heavy armor
could smell the odor of sulfur strong upon his breath.

“Wait wait, cried the servant to the dragon
“Before you kill my master and myself
Can you tell me your story
and how you came to be?”

Surprised by hearing his own tongue spoken
the dragon stopped and cocked his head
and stifled his flames
and swallowed the fumes.
“Why yes I will indeed tell you”.

“I am the last of the dragons
We lived here during the ice ages
when the earth was covered
with ice and snow.
Ages ago my mother
laid an egg – that was my egg
and the cold preserved my body
and kept me in suspended animation.
Upon the warming of the planet
I hatched and here I am – the last of my kind.
No other dragons to talk to
no brothers and sister dragons
no mother and father
no aunts and uncles”

The dragon hung his head
low with his long snake-like
neck bending toward the earth
And tears of loneliness
fell on his heated tongue
steam upraising…

The faithful servant upon seeing the animal’s distress
took compassion on the lost creature
“If you are so lonely” —— he stammered
“why you could live in our village
and help keep us warm in the winter
and entertain our children with stories of long ago”.

The three returned to the village
which became known throughout the world.
Wise men came from far away
to see the last surviving dragon in the world.
All this brought prosperity to the village.
The dragon lived out his life peacefully
among the villagers and died of old age

Now I know it’s hard to believe
that St. George did not really kill
the dragon that day —
that the lowly servant
helped negotiate a long and lasting
friendship – one of the greatest of gifts –
but its is indeed true.

—Barbara H. Roberts

RON: Next up is Ariel Potter who joined us at the Poetorium for the very first time last month…

Ariel Potter

Summertime (Massachusetts, 1975)

The eye of God,
a silver bowl
reflecting the blue sky,
endless wind and breath.

Chipmunks gather nuts,
seeds, shoots, mushrooms,
berries, small frogs, and birds’ eggs.

I beg my father
not to mow the dandelions,
endless infants of the sun
(it hurts my little heart).

Gray flannel squirrels
run across power lines.

—Ariel Potter

RON: Now please welcome Jonathan Blake who is a professor of English at Worcester State University and the creator and facilitator of the One Poem And… poetry reading that meets at WSU…

JONATHAN B: Of late I am struck by the paradox of our times: each day we hear of the mounting deaths, and all around us spring sings of beauty and budding and rebirth.


The loon’s cry~

Even the man
Counting coins
Raises his head
To listen.

—Jonathan Blake

RON: Our next poet is another Jonathan – Jonathan Stolzenberg, a first-timer here at the Poetorium . He a retired physician, who comes to us all the way from West Hartford, CT.

Jonathan Stolzenberg


Without Reason, Against Noble Truths: A Parable

I met Buddha on the road. I whined:

Why can’t I just feel some way and not have it be about something?
I’ve been happy lately. It’s more than ease of well-being, not euphoria,
just happiness. It’s not about anything in particular – I could come up
with reasons why I feel this way, but if I felt sad right now, I could
find causes for that, too, or for anxiety, anger or despair, even
depression or mania. Experience and biology are rich and provide reasons
for all states of being simultaneously – if you’re clever. Right now,
I’m happy to believe I’m so for no particular reason, like one of those
birds that wakes me up at night Spring and Summer, singing, it seems,
just for the hell of it or like ripples in a pond where no pebble was thrown in.
Conditions will change, so what? I want happiness to remain, to be ME.

Buddha smiled: happiness is a ripple in a pond, the mockingbird must sing.

—Jonathan Stolzenberg

RON: Now please welcome in her first appearance at the Poetorium, Meg Smith, a poet, journalist, dancer and events producer living in Lowell, Mass.

Meg Smith

MEG: This poem was inspired by a real-life incident. In October 1995, I worked as a witch giving out candies at the original Spookyworld theme park in Berlin, Mass.

One night, an animal handler wanted to put a black scorpion in my hand. I said no at first — then realized I’d always regret it if I didn’t. So, I agreed. The moment took place during a personal and professional crossroads of my life, so the poem speaks to that as well.

The Witch and the Scorpion

Night by night,
the leaves curl and cast off,
falling flames in the ice.
But, here is the challenge:
“Hold out your hand.”
I pull my hood close.
This hand has been giving
chocolates all night
to children fleeing the hayride.
Is it really fit to hold
the black claws, the legs,
the wonder of a cold crescent?
Everything comes clear
in the flicker of string lights.
Everything becomes
a moment to cradle
this most perfect
weight in its own
unseen web.

—Meg Smith

Meg and the Scorpian

RON: Ladies and gentlemen, it now gives me great joy to welcome back to the Virtual Poetorium, coming all the way from Latvia, one of Europe’s most award winning poets, Inga Gaile!

Inga Gaile



that you are a homosexual man in uganda
or a graying merchant of doves in jerusalem
one moment before everything is fulfilled,
that you are a child seeing
from the dark of the past
your parents lying about your death,
that you are this child’s mothe who has experienced something worse
than hearing that her man is
her 10-year-old daughter’s hus­band.

that you are a woman in india
thrown off the bus along with her boyfriend
what grows there along the side of the road, what roots.
what little bugs crawl over you,
the throbbing of your life at the tips of your fingers,
at the ends of your hai while your soul remains silent,
your soul remains silent,

little cat’s-feet of blood,
the sinewy arm of your lover,
the sun’s sweltering caress,
you open your eyes,
red mist under one eyelid,
a road stretches into the distance,
in the sultry heat it looks
as if someone is coming,
red mist coats the eyelid,
children flutter above the dust clouds,
people gather to take a look
at who is the fallen today,
people gather,
a stone under every arm,

little cat’s-feet of blood,
the sinewy arm of your lover,
the sun’s sweltering caress,
your shadow leaning over you,
too early, too early, too early,
a black shadow falls from the cross,
the sun cannot get through,
a little breath for your final moan,

three days pass,
next to a body covered with stones,
stands a murderer’s mother.

that it happens daily,
nails, bones, vinegar, moans,
from the dark you have entered this wedding
and no one looks you in the eye,
not enough time remains
to throw you out,
paste crosses on windows,
everyone buy provisions for the apocalypse,
you listen,

somewhere in the billowy distance
four winds are harnessed by

—Inga Gaile (translated from Latvian into English by Ieva Lešinska)

RON: And now for our final guest of the evening, please welcome to the virtual microphone, a poet who this year has become a familiar face at the Poetorium, Christine Burlingame…



A smile.
A nod.
Or wink.
on the brink of reason,
breathe and forget to think.
To slow.
To linger.
Or to stay
with mouths sealed shut
it’s the eyes now that
both see and say.
It’s now,
It’s after
Orange never.
Time not measured
in minutes.
A whenever,
A contract.
A touch.
Or a voice.
A necessary evil,
mindless of cause
and choice.
It’s me,
It’s you,
It’s Humans like us,
A foundation of cracks and rubble
held together by promising trust.

—Christine Burlingame

RON: Before I close out the show, I would like to bring back to the podium, my co-host and cohort Paul Szlosek…

PAUL: Thank you, Ron! I would like to share with everyone tonight a poem I wrote that won honorable mention in the Eighth Annual Worcester Magazine Poetry Contest in 2011. I hope you like it.


Somewhere in the back of every thrift store,
Behind rows of polyester pant suits, rayon jackets,
Racks of plaids and obscene checks, you’ll find it:
This semi-sacred place, a make-shift shrine
To unplanned obsolescence, sanctuary for
Out-of-date technology. A gamut of gadgets
& gizmos, & electronic devices scattered upon shelves.
Electric cords, like tails, coiled around clunky,
Dented bodies or hopelessly intertwined, entangled.
Here are typewriters, adding machines, phonographs,
Rotary phones, the once irreplaceable workhorses
Of our homes and offices, side by side with faded fads,
Obscure orphans of the marketplace. Eight tracks,
Betamaxes, Polavision, Tandy home computers,
The cutting edge of past futures dulled by newer innovations,
Unable to snag the consumers’ cash, condemned to attics
And Corporate warehouses until rescued by their saviors,
Goodwill, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army.
Here ( oh, bless them) both they and we are offered redemption,
A second chance, the cast-off luxuries of affluent lives made
Available and affordable to all, and everyone, even the poor
Can live like millionaires (circa 1984).

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in “Worcester Magazine”)

Before I turn the microphone back over to Ron, I just want to thank everyone that participated in tonight’s program including Eileen, Barbera, and everyone in the virtual open reading as well as the contributors to the collaborative poem. You are all amazing and without you, there would be no Poetorium!

RON: And now folks it’s time for the closing of this month’s show.   It’s always hard to come up with something that is appropriate for closing the show.  So I’m going to fall back to something I wrote a while ago that suits just how I feel about you guys.  It’s  called Reading All the Signs.

Reading All the Signs

The warning here is
there are sharpe edges
on things that are broken
The warning here is
bandaids don’t stick to me
and I bleed a lot
The warning here is
I’m not as tough
as I would have my exterior show
The warning here is
to read all the warning signs
so you know what your up against
and from here on out
it’s not going to be easy
but I promise

I will love you forever
and thats the final warning

—Ron Whittle

Good night everyone (waving my hand)
May peace be with you and yours
and please stay healthy and
Good night Mrs Cowart where ever you are!

See you next month! Paul and I, we luv you guys!