VIRTUAL POETORIUM (June 29, 2021)

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THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM June 29, 2021

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Greetings everyone, let me welcome you to the June 2021 Virtual Poetorium poetry show. As I look out into the audience, I can see we have a smaller than average group tonight, but I want to thank all of you who left your comfortable air-conditioned homes to be with us on this hot and humid almost-summer evening. I want to assure you Ron is doing well, but he is unable to be with us this night, so I am afraid you are once again saddled with me in his place as host. As I mentioned when I sent out this month’s invitations to join us, we will be doing something a bit different with our feature on this occasion. Instead of having an actual living poet as we usually do, we are having a currently deceased one as our featured speaker. I heard from a few of you speculating about the identity of this dead mystery poet, but I want to congratulate Howard J Kogan for guessing right. Good job, Howard!

But more about that after I officially kick off the show. Like Ron always does, I will begin the program by presenting a poem of my own.This is something I unearthed in an old notebook. I never got in the habit of dating my work, but my guesstimate is that it is probably from the mid-1990s, detecting some influence from slam poetry I was listening to back then. I can’t say if I feel it is bad or good, but one thing, this is certainly something I would never write today…

Old Man on the Street

On a city sidewalk,
where eye contact
can be a punishable offence,
he still smiles at passing strangers
who analyze his motives,
and question his character.

Sometimes a pretty passerby
will toss the old man a look.
Sometimes he steals one uninvited,
gazing openly at smooth lips
and vacuous blue eyes.

He has been warned
the streets are no place
for social situations,
people are too condensed,
too concerned with just
coming and going,
there are more appropriate arenas
to make friends or acquire acquaintances.
But the street is now the only p!ace,
this old man knows.

In the frigid afternoon,
a college boy (wearing
an unreadable expression)
hands him his leftover coffee,
saying human interaction
is an old fashioned concept,
that hip people today meet
on the internet falling in love
over miles and miles of fiber optic cable.

The old man knows when he is being
told a joke, and smiles with jagged teeth.
The boy returns his gesture,
and will again the next time they pass.
Perhaps a smile, not microtechnology,
is still enough to dissolve the curse
of being alone and lonely.

—Paul Szlosek

As Howard correctly surmised, our feature tonight is the one and only Carl Sandburg. Our only problem was since he is not presently living was how to get him to read for us. My first thought was to hire a medium to conjure up his ghost, and then my second notion was to have a necromancer perform an resurrection, but that would involve painting a pentagram in human blood on the floor, and the owner of this establishment would probably frown upon that. Luckily, my cousin Dwayne, who is a regular at the Poetorium and here tonight, provided a solution. It seems that last summer he discovered an antique but still working time machine in an abandoned barn on a former dairy farm in Charlton. He managed to persuade the present day owner of the property (who had no idea what is was) to sell the machine to him for a few hundred bucks, and he now uses it to research his Saga of Nine Gun Billy, which he will share the latest installment with us in the virtual open mic later in the program. Dwayne graciously loaned it (this huge metal contraption you see on stage) to me, and I used it to travel exactly a hundred years into the past to Elmhurst, Illinois, where Sandburg was living at the time. I managed to run into him at the town cafe which I knew he frequented daily and convinced him to be our feature poet, although he believes that we are a local poetry group that meets monthly in a large spare room at the Allhambra Theatre in the nearby city of Lombard, and he is reading on June 29th, 1921, not 2021. Actually he is right now in the time machine which he thinks is a green room, waiting to come on stage and read. But before we let him out the time machine and onto the Poetorium stage to be interviewed, I’d like to read the beginning of the bio of Carl Sandburg I found on Wikipedia to let you know a little more about him:

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Carl Sandburg

Carl August Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967) was an American poet, biographer, journalist, and editor. He won three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as ‘a major figure in contemporary literature’, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920). He enjoyed ‘unrivaled appeal as a poet in his day, perhaps because the breadth of his experiences connected him with so many strands of American life’, and at his death in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that ‘Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America.’ “

(Opening time machine door) Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to Carl Sandburg!

Welcome to the Poetorium stage, Carl! Thank you so very much for coming here to read your poetry to us tonight. Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. The reason we interview the guest speaker at the beginning of the show is to let our audience get to know them a bit better before we hear their work.  So my first question for you is did you always know as a child you were going to be a famous writer and poet someday?

CARL: I was either going to be a writer or a bum.

PAUL: Really? How did you plan to go about doing that?

CARL: I knew I would read all kinds of books and try to get at what it is that makes good writers good. But I made no promises that I would write books a lot of people would like to read.

PAUL: Any other specific details about your plan?

CARL: I decided I would go to Chicago and try my luck as a writer after those eight months as a fireman.

PAUL: Your book Cornhuskers was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Do you agree with the critics who say it is a masterpiece of American verse?

CARL: A book is never a masterpiece: it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man

PAUL: Interesting… well, I certainly think you are a genius… So did you decide on the title Cornhuskers before or after you wrote it?

CARL: We don’t have to think up a title till we get the doggone book written.

PAUL:  And when you were writing it, did you always know it was going to be some of your best poetry? What if it turned out not to be very good?

CARL: There was always the consolation that if I didn’t like what I wrote I could throw it away or burn it.

PAUL:  You seem to compose most of your poetry, but not all, in free verse. What is your opinion of rhyming versus nonrhyming poetry?

CARL: If it jells into free verse, all right. If it jells into rhyme, all right.

PAUL: Some critics say your poetry is not poetry at all,  just lines in prose arranged in such a way to create the illusion of poetry. How do you respond to that?

CARL: There is a formal poetry only in form, all dressed up and nowhere to go. The number of syllables, the designated and required stresses of accent, the rhymes if wanted—they all come off with the skill of a solved crossword puzzle. … The fact is ironic. A proficient and sometimes exquisite performer in rhymed verse goes out of his way to register the point that the more rhyme there is in poetry the more danger of its tricking the writer into something other than the urge in the beginning.

PAUL: So then, what is your opinion of most modern poetry?

CARL: A series of ear wigglings.

PAUL: Okay. Right now as we speak, you are forty-three years old, but you look at least 10 years younger…. how do you keep from aging?

CARL: From NOT answering my correspondence…

PAUL: You are one of the most famous poets in America and already won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. What else do you want out of life?

CARL:  To be out of jail, … to eat regular, … to get what I write printed, … a little love at home and a little nice affection hither and yon over the American landscape, … and to sing every day.

PAUL: I know this is a bit morbid, but what do you think your death will be like?

CARL: I’ll probably die propped up in bed trying to write a poem about America.

PAUL:  Alright. My final question for you this evening, Carl, is what is your personal definition of poetry?

CARL: Poetry is a projection across silence of cadences arranged to break that silence with definite intentions of echoes, syllables, wave lengths. Poetry is an art practiced with the terribly plastic material of human language. Poetry is the report of a nuance between two moments, when people say, ‘Listen!’ and ‘Did you see it?’ ‘Did you hear it? What was it?’. Poetry is the tracing of the trajectories of a finite sound to the infinite points of its echoes. Poetry is a sequence of dots and dashes, spelling depths, crypts, cross-lights, and moon wisps. Poetry is a puppet-show, where riders of skyrockets and divers of sea fathoms gossip about the sixth sense and the fourth dimension. Poetry is a plan for a slit in the face of a bronze fountain goat and the path of fresh drinking water. Poetry is a slipknot tightened around a time-beat of one thought, two thoughts, and a last interweaving thought there is not yet a number for. Poetry is an echo asking a shadow dancer to be a partner. Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly the air. Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations. Poetry is a fossil rock-print of a fin and a wing, with an illegible oath between. Poetry is an exhibit of one pendulum connecting with other and unseen pendulums inside and outside the one seen. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is any page from a sketchbook of outlines of a doorknob with thumb-prints of dust, blood, dreams. Poetry is a type-font design for an alphabet of fun, hate, love, death. Poetry is the cipher key to the five mystic wishes packed in a hollow silver bullet fed to a flying fish. Poetry is a theorem of a yellow-silk handkerchief knotted with riddles, sealed in a balloon tied to the tail of a kite flying in a white wind against a blue sky in spring. Poetry is a dance music measuring buck-and-wing follies along with the gravest and stateliest dead-marches. Poetry is a sliver of the moon lost in the belly of a golden frog. Poetry is a mock of a cry at finding a million dollars and a mock of a laugh at losing it. Poetry is the silence and speech between a wet struggling root of a flower and a sunlit blossom of that flower. Poetry is the harnessing of the paradox of earth cradling life and then entombing it. Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment. Poetry is a fresh morning spider-web telling a story of moonlit hours of weaving and waiting during a night. Poetry is a statement of a series of equations, with numbers and symbols changing like the changes of mirrors, pools, skies, the only never-changing sign being the sign of infinity. Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes. Poetry is a section of river-fog and moving boat-lights, delivered between bridges and whistles, so one says, ‘Oh!’ and another, ‘How?’. Poetry is a kinetic arrangement of static syllables. Poetry is the arithmetic of the easiest way and the primrose path, matched up with foam-flanked horses, bloody knuckles, and bones, on the hard ways to the stars. Poetry is a shuffling of boxes of illusions buckled with a strap of facts. Poetry is an enumeration of birds, bees, babies, butterflies, bugs, bambinos, babayagas, and bipeds, beating their way up bewildering bastions. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. Poetry is the establishment of a metaphorical link between white butterfly-wings and the scraps of torn-up love-letters. Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. Poetry is a mystic, sensuous mathematics of fire, smoke-stacks, waffles, pansies, people, and purple sunsets. Poetry is the capture of a picture, a song, or a flair, in a deliberate prism of words. Poetry is …

PAUL: Ummm…sorry to interrupt, Carl, but we do have to keep the show moving… so unless someone in the audience has a question… no?…well then, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Carl, thank you so much for a really fascinating and illuminating interview! Now, folks, please give our feature poet Carl Sandburg a humongous round of applause as he takes to the podium to present poems from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Cornhuskers… 

CARL:

MONOSYLLABIC

Let me be monosyllabic today, O Lord.
Yesterday I loosed a snarl of words
on a fool, on a child.
Today, let me be monosyllabic…
a crony of old men
who wash sunlight in their fingers
and enjoy slow-pacing clocks.

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

CHICKS

The chick in the egg picks at the shell, cracks open one oval world,
and enters another oval world.

“Cheep…cheep…cheep” is the salutation of the newcomer,
the emigrant, the casual at the gates of the new world.

“Cheep…cheep”…from oval to oval, sunset to sunset, star to star.

It is at the door of this house, this teeny weeny eggshell exit,
it is here men say a riddle and jeer each other: who are you?
where do you go from here?

(In the academies many books, at the circus many sacks of peanuts,
at the club rooms many cigar butts.)

“Cheep…cheep”…from oval to oval, sunset to sunset, star to star.

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

HUMDRUM

If I had a million lives to live
and a million deaths to die
in a million humdrum worlds,
I’d like to change my name
and have a new house number to go by
each and every time I died
and started life all over again.

I wouldn’t want the same name every time
and the same old house number always,
dying a million deaths,
dying one by one a million times:
—would you?
or you?
or you?

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

LEGENDS

CLOWNS DYING

Five circus clowns dying this year, morning newspapers told their lives,
how each one horizontal in a last gesture of hands
arranged by an undertaker, shook thousands into convulsions
of laughter from behind rouge-red lips and powder-white face.

STEAMBOAT BILL

When the boilers of the Robert E. Lee exploded,
a steamboat winner of many races on the Mississippi
went to the bottom of the river and never again saw the wharves
of Natchez and New Orleans. And a legend lives on that two gamblers
were blown toward the sky and during their journey laid bets on
which of the two would go higher and which would be first 
to set foot on the turf of the earth again.

FOOT AND MOUTH PLAGUE

When the mysterious foot and mouth epidemic ravaged the cattle of Illinois,
Mrs. Hector Smith wept bitterly over the government
killing forty of her soft-eyed Jersey cows;
through the newspapers she wept over her loss
for millions of readers in the Great Northwest.

SEVENS

The lady who has had seven lawful husbands has written seven years
for a famous newspaper telling how to find love and keep it:
seven thousand hungry girls in the Mississippi Valley have read the instructions
seven years and found neither illicit loves nor lawful husbands.

PROFITEER

I who saw ten strong young men die anonymously,
I who saw ten old mothers hand over their sons to the nation anonymously,
I who saw ten thousand touch the sunlit silver finalities of undistinguished human glory—why do I sneeze sardonically at a bronze drinking fountain named after
one who participated in the war vicariously and bought ten farms?

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

THE CHICAGO POET

I saluted a nobody.
I saw him in a looking-glass.
He smiled—so did I.
He crumpled the skin on his forehead, frowning—so did I.
Everything I did he did.
I said, “Hello, I know you.”
And I was a liar to say so.

Ah, this looking-glass man!
Liar, fool, dreamer, play-actor,
Soldier, dusty drinker of dust—
Ah! he will go with me
Down the dark stairway
When nobody else is looking,
When everybody else is gone.

He locks his elbow in mine, I lose all—but not him.

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

WILDERNESS

There is a wolf in me…fangs pointed for tearing gashes…
a red tongue for raw meat…and the hot lapping of blood—
I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me
and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me…a silver-gray fox…I sniff and guess…
I pick things out of the wind and air…I nose in the dark night
and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers…
I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me…a snout and a belly…
a machinery for eating and grunting…
a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—
I got this too from the wilderness
and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me…I know I came from salt-blue water-gates…
I scurried with shoals of herring…I blew waterspouts with porpoises…
before land was…before the water went down…
before Noah…before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me…clambering-clawed…dog-faced…
yawping a galoot’s hunger…hairy under the armpits…
here are the hawk-eyed hankering men…
here are the blond and blue-eyed women…
here they hide curled asleep waiting…ready to snarl and kill…
ready to sing and give milk…waiting—
I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird…
and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams
and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want…
and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone,
warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope,
gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—
And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head,
under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart,
a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover:
it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—
For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: 
I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

HAUNTS

There are places I go when I am strong.
One is a marsh pool where I used to go
with a long-ear hound-dog.
One is a wild crabapple tree; I was there
a moonlight night with a girl.
The dog is gone; the girl is gone; I go to these
places when there is no other place to go.

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

RIVER ROADS

Let the crows go by hawking their caw and caw.
They have been swimming in midnights of coal mines somewhere.
Let ’em hawk their caw and caw.

Let the woodpecker drum and drum on a hickory stump.
He has been swimming in red and blue pools somewhere hundreds of years
And the blue has gone to his wings and the red has gone to his head.
Let his red head drum and drum.

Let the dark pools hold the birds in a looking-glass.
And if the pool wishes, let it shiver to the blur
of many wings, old swimmers from old places.

Let the redwing streak a line of vermillion on the green wood lines.
And the mist along the river fix its purple in lines
of a woman’s shawl on lazy shoulders.

—Carl Sandburg (from Cornhuskers)

PAUL: Wow! Thank you, Carl! That was just incredible! Folks, let’s show our appreciation for such an amazing feature by giving a big (virtual) Poetorium hand for Carl Sandburg!

(Opening time machine door) Carl, we would love to have you stay for the rest of the show, but I know you are a very busy man with still many other engagements for tonight, so if you go right through this door you should be able to find your way out of the theatre….

(Closing time machine door and pushing button) Okay, that should take Carl back to the Allhambra Theatre in Lombard, Illinois on Wednesday night, June 29th, 1921…. I hope we didn’t do anything to interfere with the Time Continuum and change history… oh, well… Speaking of time, normally this would be the time we would be taking a short intermission, but tonight we are going to skip that, and keep plowing straight ahead. 

Okay, now I am going to present what is always one of my favorite segments of the program—the Poetorium group poem which this month was to be tentatively titled  “A Series of Random Regrets”.  To participate, people were asked to send us one to six lines with the first line starting with the phrase “I regret…” For some reason, the number of contributions we received this month were fewer than usual (hence the final title), but what we got were compiled to create the following poem (I want to thank Brad Osborne, Karen Warinsky, Howard J Kogan, and Mishelle Goodwin for participating):

A Rather Short Series of Random Regrets

I regret staying silent,
when words were so required.
Standing idly by,
until the chance expired.

I regret to say I have a nice place to live. 
I regret where I used to like to live.

I regret to say that you have places to go and things to do.
I regret in time it just seems like a waste!

I regret not putting more effort
Into past Halloween costumes.

I regret both everything and nothing,
my gullibility and my inability to believe,
long gaps in intimate conversations
and nonstop babbling. I regret what
I regret and regret what I don’t.  

I regret I have so few regrets—
the sad result of a quiet life.

I will be beginning the virtual open mic in just a few minutes, but first, I’ll be presenting the submissions we received for this month’s Poetorium Writing Challenge (like the contributions to this month’s group poem, very few in number), the segment of the Virtual Poetorium in which each month we challenge you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. This month’s challenge was to write a Monostich, a form which the only restriction is that it has to be a poem written in a single line (everything else goes). It could have a title or not, and most of the participants this month’s decided not to have one. 

First we will start with Karen Warinsky‘s entry:

I was fine, until it was my turn.

—Karen Warinsky

Now we have one by Howard J Kogan, which was apparently inspired by an item that was currently in the news:

Even humpback whales have good taste, they spit people out!

—Howard J Kogan

Brad Osborne sent us the following three:

You proudly boast that you are free, but invisible chains are hard to see.

—Brad Osborne

There is nothing lower than thinking you stand above others.

—Brad Osborne

I choose to speak for silence is a tacit approval.

—Brad Osborne

First-time Poetorium participant J. D. Scrimgeour presented a “found” monostich that he claims was inspired my instructions included in the invitation to write one—my very own words with one alteration:

Your final example is one I wrote which does not have a title.

—J. D. Scrimgeour

In turn, J. D. inspired the following one from me,  a “found” monostich  based on something my late school friend Timothy Griffith once said many years ago in a high school cafeteria (this is the only one with a title):

Politics

Rightwing, Leftwing—you need both wings to fly.

—Paul Szlosek  

I will conclude with two “found” monostiches I discovered hidden in novels by famous authors. The first is by Raymond Chandler in his first novel The Big Sleep:

The old man nodded, as if his neck was afraid of the weight of his head

—Raymond Chandler

Our final one is by Ray Bradbury from his novel Dandelion Wine:

Bees have a smell, their feet are dusted with spice from a million flowers.

—Ray Bradbury

Okay, we’ll start the open mic, like Ron usually does, with me reading a poem of own. This is a pantoum I wrote which first appeared online in Grand Little Things:

My Personal Poultry Apocalypse

Seems most of our hens were dropping dead
in pen 3A throughout that year.
We’d carry their bodies out to the shed,
then another corpse would soon appear.
 
In pen 3A throughout that year,
the mortality rate was rather high.
Yet another corpse would soon appear,
still another chicken would up and die.
 
The mortality rate was rather high.
There was no apparent cause of death,
but another chicken would up and die.
They’d just squawk and take their final breath.
 
There was no apparent cause of death.
In other years, all the hens would thrive.
Now they’d squawk and take their final breath.
Only a couple dozen would survive.
 
In other years, all the hens would thrive,
but now frantic wings clutched at feathered chests.
Only a couple dozen would survive.
Perhaps they suffered cardiac arrests.
 
After frantic wings clutched at feathered chests,
we’d carry their bodies out to the shed.
Perhaps they suffered cardiac arrests?
Seems most of our hens were dropping dead…

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Grand Little Things)

First up on tonight’s open mic is Joe Fusco…

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE: 

Chatham

 A short man walks his large dog on the beach at dusk.
 He’s a year-rounder who likes to chat with tourists about Chatham.
“Your dog looks like a coyote,” my wife tells him.
“He’s half- coyote,” the short man replies.
Our children climb the empty lifeguard-chair then jump into the sand.
“What’s his name,” I ask.
“Bundy,” the year-rounder replies.
“Like Al on ‘Married with Children’,” I ask.
“No, like the serial killer,” he replies.
We grab the children and hurry back to the cottage, locking the windows, pulling a heavy desk behind the front door.
The night is star-less and silent except for an occasional shout from the beach:
“Here, Ted. Here, Ted.”
Like a worried roadrunner, I sleep with one eye open,
Waiting for the wily coyote to strike.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Next we have Mishelle Goodwin, who asked permission to read two of her poems tonight:

MISHELLE:

I Remember My Father

I remember my Father
On his 80th Birthday,
He was smiling and laughing. 
I had wished him a Happy 80th Birthday.

I had called him on the phone 
To wish him a Happy Father’s Day.
The next day, my mother called me.
She was crying he passed away in the hospital.

Us kids were close to both our Mother and Father,
And so were our kids.
They were all sad.
They were in South Carolina at the time.

There was not much any one could do
I remembered we said a prayer from the Bible.
The one he marked in the book of Psalms.
There were a lot of people at our house a couple of days after.

He was cremated and he rests
On my Mother’s bureau in her room.
I miss my Father 
And I’ll never forget him as long as I live.

—Mishelle Goodwin

Poem

If the sea was turning,
Like waves on the rocks
Or at the sunset,
That beams down upon the sand
When you walk along the beach,
You see foot prints in the sand
You hear all of the people,
That are on the boardwalk
The beach and the emptiness fills your heart,
Like the sea gulls that are at the beach
And while you are eating French fries,
Sipping your drink and as you walk along
You window shop,
Maybe you get taffy, candy,
Or some chocolate fudge
And purchase post cards, cigarettes,
And some clothes to wear,
You take a picture of your self
And you put in a photo album,
That you make when you die
To share when you pass away.

—Mishelle Goodwin

PAUL: Now please welcome Howard J Kogan…

Howard J Kogan

HOWARD: Here is my poem for tonight (a different version of this poem appears in my book, Indian Summer, available from Square Circle Press).

Photo Album

I faithfully carry my dead parents’ photo album,
like ashes, from one home to another.
Eighteen pages of heavy black paper bound
by shoelaces between faux leather covers.
Eight tiny black and white photos on a page,
each set in black corner tabs lacking the strength
to hold this world in place.
None of the photos is labeled.
Who would have imagined these people,
these events, would ever be forgotten?
Yet I turn the pages unable to attach a name
to these vaguely familiar faces.

I remember only the photographs.
Is that a memory or only the remains of a memory?
Even when I find myself at three or four,
surrounded by Tanta’s and Bubba’s,
looking up at me across so many years
I see only another group of wandering Jews –
émigrés from one lost world – lost in another. 

—Howard J Kogan

PAUL: Trekking in all the way from Lowell, here is Meg Smith…

Meg Smith

MEG: Waltzing mice are a genetic variant in which the mouse cannot travel in a straight line and tends to go about in circles. I learned about waltzing mice from my late husband who was a zoologist. This poem is an elegy to him, but also takes the name “Jackie” from a memorial to one such mouse, which I found on YouTube. The poem is unpublished…

Heaven of Waltzing Mice

When you wake from your fire sleep,
ash crumbling like a dried cake,
they’ll dance in their
circle without partners,
but with gratitude that only you know.
Who is there, but Jackie, in her
black and white finery, pushing out a ring
of wood shavings and crumbs —
like a new corona,
Jackie, not stopping
for love or even breath. 

—Meg Smith

PAUL: In terms of distance traveled, our next poet even tops Meg. Please welcome Brad Osborne who came all the way from Pennsylvania to be with us

BRAD: 

“When Cometh Time”

When cometh time, that I am dead
Lookest not for my earthly grave
To tread the mound o’er fallen head
Shed the tears thou wouldst not save
For tis not there, my spirit lie
I am the wind that passes by

Nary a stone will marketh lot
Whenst my time has ticked its last
Nor daisies resting, where I am not
With thou sorrow and sadness cast
Soul unbound in deathly call
I am the rains that lightly fall

Seek me not in hallowed spaces
Hold still the words that cometh late
Find me in the common places
Should final rest behold fatal fate
Ne’er the grave will e’er be mine
I am the sun that doeth bright shine

If thoust look, I can be found
And all the love I have for thee
Will not live, if laid to ground
In death it finds its liberty
You can always find me there
I am in every breath of air

—Brad Osborne

PAUL: Our next poet in the open mic will be Karen Warinsky…

KAREN:  Here is my poem,  “No Bowling for You”, which was read at our June 6th Roseland Park outdoor poetry event.  It is based on what I see as I drive around some of the more humble communities in our three-state area where it seems fun has been driven underground…

No Bowling for You

And so now this town
so down on its luck, scrapping all heels
has replaced its bowling alley with
a Cube Smart storage facility,
where the poor people who can no longer pay
their thousand a month to rent
two bedrooms in an old Victorian
with a saggy porch and yellowed wallpaper
can park their belongings
while they move in with friendsor family,
where goods from a recently deceased relative
can be stashed until a plan is made to distribute them.

A two-acre park in the center of town,
widely used by local addicts despite the small swing set,
a recreation park on the east-side
and the bowling alley
were all this place had
besides a dozen churches, a handful of restaurants and a “gentleman’s club.”
The newest buildings in town are always
a pharmacy,
a gas station,
another bank.
Its this way most places these days.
Not even a place to hear live music any more
or a place to dance,
though in the summers one night a month
the streets fill with vendors and there is a featured band.
Third Thursday, they call it.
Special. Like a medieval feast day.

Once there was a bookstore that had a New Age vibe,
served healthy food,
hosted book talks,
readings,
but it closed after a while,
the town’s groovy clientele too sparse,
too thrifty to keep it afloat.
And so now the Cube Smart waits
to claim dishes, books and chairs,
see whether their owners will ever come for them
or if the (pickers) will get there first.

—Karen Warinsky

PAUL: Stepping up to the Poetorium podium now is another long-distance traveler, Eugenie Steinman from California…

Eugenie Steinman

GENIE:

(Untitled)

🖤Thank you dad for science and
Math
And for rhyme and reason too
Because of you 
Leon Bender Steinman 
I love ❤️ them all

—Eugenie Steinman

PAUL: Now please welcome my very own cousin, Dwayne Szlosek, who graciously let us borrow his time machine for this night:

Dwayne Szlosek (Dressed as Nine Gun Billy, Age 54)

DWAYNE:

Nine Gun Billy# 5

The date is May 30th, 1880, I am Billy Gunn.
I have been doing some work around the ranch,
cleaning up all the burned wood where the house once stood.
I decided to rebuild and make a new home on the same spot.

All of a sudden, I can hear a horse and wagon coming
with one stranger driving it. And me with no gun.
I can hear my own heart beating loud in my ears.
I am scared. Who is he? Is he one of the nine?
I also have a stinky mudslide running down inside
my pants and down into my boot. I tell myself I am going to die.
I also cannot move a muscle. Out of the blue, I can hear a tiny little voice
saying “Don’ t shoot, don’ t shoot! It’ s me, your cousin Paul !”
I am relieved to know it is my cousin,  and start to laugh out loud.
What a good feeling to know it is him.

I said “It is you, it is you, Paul?”
My cousin said “Yes, I am glad to see you too, Billy,
but I am here to warn you there is a crazy son of a bitch coming
for you. His name is Pete. And I am here to help you get him, Cousin.
Besides, Pete owes me his kidney from playing cards.”
I said “Alright then.”, not knowing what that meant for sure.
All I know there is one more coming for me.
Thank God that Paul is here to help me.
He is good with a gun. I am okay with one,
hitting tin cans and glass bottles off a wooden fence.
Me and my cousin have two days to prepare for Pete’s arrival.
We set up for a ambush on him. We will let him come into the ranch—
once he is halfway in, we will start shooting. That’s the plan…

It is now June 2nd, 1880; we are all set up for Pete.
We are waiting for him to come, but something is wrong.
Pete is not here, shouldn’t he be here by now?
I come out of hiding,  my cousin having my back,
just in case Pete is waiting for me. I have my pistol drawn.
There is a tree near by. I stand under it, not knowing that
Pete is hiding up in the tree  Pete leaps from the oak,
knocking me down to the ground and my gun out of my hand.
Paul comes out, takes one of his playing cards and shoots the card
between his fingers, hitting Pete right in his jugglar vein,
killing him (my cousin saving my life).

I take a good look at my killer. He has blonde hair, okay teeth,
a tattoo of a skull and cross bones on his face. He is wearing a top hat
and a three-piece suit made of wool, and has on black boots.
I take his gun belt and his pistol. He also has 59 dollars that I keep.
My cousin takes his kidney. We eat the kidney that night
(not half bad). And we give the rest to Jack the Buzzard…,

Nine Gun Billy

—Dwayne Szlosek (copyright 6\26\ 2021)

A Sketch of Nine Gun Billy’s “Crazy” Cousin Paul

Thank you, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed Nine Gun Billy tonight.
See all of you next month. Be safe and good night..😂

PAUL: And now, last, but not least in the open mic tonight, here is Ariel Potter…

Ariel Potter

ARIEL:

In Spring 2020

A young woman in shorts wears her heels like workboots
while sweeping the sidewalk in front of the massage parlor.
The “Open 24 Hours” sign is the color of Christmas lights 
and slowly blinks. The windows are blocked with posters
of women with long dark hair and passive stares.
A man slinks out of the front door, shoes halfway on,
looks furtively up and down the street.

Cement squares shimmer in the rain,
the air is warm. The stoplight snarls at ugly cars.
There are no smiles in my neighborhood-
just people in masks. A cat sleeps in a dusty bodega window.
Empty minature bottles of liquor scattered everywhere.
Long lines for the deli form outside,
a man in a brown jacket blows smoke rings defiantly.
The Chinese grandma, collecting bottles, pushes her cart.
The gourmet grocery store has curbside pickup
(bread and herbs, cheese and wine),
even the cashiers look affluent in their black aprons
and hip shoes, carrying bags to cars.
The church with the glowing red light is locked up.
No Sunday singing, no aunties in dresses
herding children up the front walk.

The Virus is having a time of it, shutting everything down,
showing us who’s boss, shattering Spring, then Summer,
then the election. Half the country breathing a sigh of relief,
the other brandishing weapons. Maybe next Spring when
the grass turns green in the park where the homeless gather,
a vaccine will be available, and the girl who works at the Dollar Store
will be leaning against the dirty store window and talking loudly
on her phone once again.

–Ariel Potter

PAUL: WOW! Thank you everyone in tonight’s open mic! You were just all amazing as always!

I am going to close out the show with a poem of mine that is based on “Fog” by tonight’s feature Carl Sandburg (probably his most famous poem along with “Chicago”) My poem is written in the form of a Kindku, a newly invented poetry form (inspired by both traditional Japanese forms—like the haiku and tanka—and Found Poetry) co-created by Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis and posted on their website, Auroras & Blossoms @ https://abpositiveart.com. The Kindku is a short poem of seven lines (the syllable pattern is 7/5/7/5/7/5/7 or 5/7/5/7/5/7/5) that must include seven words taken from one specific source — a song, a book, a newspaper article, etc. (in my case, the poem “Fog”)…

All Your Uncertainty (Like the Weather) Will Soon Pass…

Fog creeps across the landscape.
Stealthily, it comes.
Little by little, things fade
(you can’t see your feet).
It seems the world’s dissolving
(so ghostly-looking),
then turns solid once again.

—Paul Szlosek (kindku inspired by Carl Sandburg’s “Fog”)

Well, as Porky Pig is known to say, “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”  I hope you enjoyed tonight’s admittedly weird and quirky rendition of the Virtual Poetorium. It certainly has been a pleasure to hear all of your poetry tonight. Hopefully we will be back with the Virtual Poetorium next month in July with Ron (we might even have some big news to report about our live shows then). Until then please take care, stay safe and keep writing, reading, and breathing poetry…