Virtual Poetorium (May 25, 2021)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is photostudio_1584884377621.jpg

THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM APRIL 27, 2021

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Good evening, everyone! 

Welcome to our second year anniversary edition of the Poetorium! I can see that some of you in the audience are looking a bit puzzled right now. You are probably thinking “Wait a minute, Paul, didn’t you guys just have a first anniversary edition this March?” Well, yes, we did, but that was celebrating the anniversary of the Virtual Poetorium, while this month will be two years since we  launched the very first live Poetorium show at the Starlite Bar & Gallery in Southbridge, Massachusetts on May 28th, 2019. I am happy to say our featured poet tonight is fittingly the person who started it all – our very own Poetorium co-founder and co-host, Ron Whittle! And since it would be too much to expect him to  be both the feature and the host at the same time, that is why you are seeing me, not Ron as usual on the stage right now. I will be taking over Ron’s hosting duties tonight, and so like Ron usually does, I’m going to kick off the show with one of my own poems.  It’s called “Poet or Stripper”, and I apologize if you already heard me read it countless times before. This first appeared in Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology complied by David Nader and published by BatCity Press in the year 2000…

Poet or Stripper

If I ever have a seventeen-year-old daughter,
(I admit the possibility is becoming quite remote)
and one morning, as we are chowing down together
on Pop Tarts and Coca Cola, she tells me
she can’t decide on a career,
wavering between poet and stripper,
I would have to advise her to choose the latter.

Now, not even considering economics,
and I heard a good stripper call pull down
a couple thousand a week, but as a poet,
she’d be lucky to see half that in her lifetime,
stripping is obviously the much more moral,
much less degrading profession.
All you have to expose is skin.
And the audiences are always so enthusiastic and responsive,
filled with respected members of the community,
like businessmen and politicians.

But as a poet, you got to perform
in sleazy run-down dives
reeking of amaretto and hazelnut
and cater to the whims of all those underground,
on the fringe, alternative lifestyle types.
You know who I mean:
Environmentalists,
Liberal Thinkers,
and the like.
And they are usually so indifferent
to the poor slob on stage.
You practically have to beg them on hands and knees
for them to listen, to pay any attention at all,
and if they do, they are never satisfied.
They keep demanding
“Take it off!!
Take it all off…” –
the pretenses,
the false facades,
the masks you wear in public.

And you oblige, teasingly peeling away
all the layers, one by one
until your soul is laid bare,
your essence revealed
and you’re left standing there
with your psyche hanging out
for a room full of strangers to gawk at.

Well, if you ask me,
you have to be an attention-craving fool
with no self-respect to want to do
a humiliating thing like that.

—Paul Szlosek (from Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology)

Like I’ve been doing for the past few shows, I will be skipping the “Mystery Poet” segment I usually present at this time, so we can hurry up and bring Ron up to the stage for his interview and feature. I usually say that before we do, I’d like to let you know a little more about Ron. Well,  I think most people here already know as much about Ron Whittle as they care to (just kidding), but just case you don’t, here is a short bio:

Ron Whittle

Ron Whittle, a lifetime resident of Massachusetts, was born in Worcester in 1947 and raised and educated in his home town of Shrewsbury. Further education came by way of the U.S. Navy, Vietnam, the Apollo 13 recovery team, and 45 years of family living. Ron divides his time between his home in Worcester and the shores of Cape Cod. His influences include Tom Waits, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Edgar Allan Poe, Ogen Nash, Ezra Pound, and Rod McKuen. Ron is a founder and co-host of the monthly open mic and featured poetry reading series The Poetorium at Starlite, a member of the Worcester County Poetry Association, the Works in Progress/ Outlaw Stage at the Worcester Artist Group, the Warrior Writers of Boston, and a founding member of the Worcester Art Walk. Ron has appeared and read on many local television programs including being a featured poet on “Wake up and Smell the Poetry” on HCAM-TV in Hopkinton, MA. He has also appeared on stage at the Massachusetts State Poetry Festival in Salem, MA, the Great Falls Word Festival at Turners Falls, MA, and the Garlic Festival in Orange, MA. Ron is the author of currently three published books of poetry (with many, many more scheduled to be published in the very near future) from Human Error Publishing including Goodbye AgainPostcards From a War Zone, and his most recent In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Grandson which also features poems by both his late father and 9-year-old grandson Jake Hansen…

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to the Poetorium’s Main Man, Ron Whittle!

Please take a seat, Ron! I have a bit of a surprise in store for you.  For your interview, I thought instead of interrogating..ummm…I mean interviewing you myself, I’d hand that task off to the folks that you yourself have been interviewing for the last two years, our past featured poets.I put out a call to past features to see if they have any questions they would like to ask you, and apparently quite a few did. Can all our past Poetorium featured poets who are here tonight please come to the stage? Wow! I’m not sure if there is enough room for you all. Thank you so much, everyone, for agreeing to do this…

First up is the poet who was our inaugeral feature for the Virtual Poetorium back in March of last year, Jonathan Andersen. Jonathan is a a professor of English at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson and Willimantic, Connecticut, and the author of Augur (Red Dragonfly Press, 2018), which was the recipient of the 2017 David Martinson-Meadowhawk Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2019 Connecticut Book Award in Poetry. His other books include The Burden Note, (Meridian Prize, 2014), an English/Serbo-Croatian chapbook, and Stomp and Sing (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2005). Jonathan, please take it away…

JONATHAN:  Ron, what poetry has changed you or helped you to change?

RON: The truth be known I would say it would be my own.  It’s not that I’m in the class of the greats by any stretch of the imagination, but by writing and learning how to write (self-taught) I became acutely aware it was not easy to become a poet and express your every feeling in terms all can understand.  Eventually, I found I really enjoyed putting a new twist on words or a surprise ending no one was expecting.  Those that know me know I enjoy getting weird with titles as well.

JONATHAN: Right now, globally, there are cascading existential crises for human beings: the climate crisis with its fires, floods, severe weather, and displacement; unremitting wars; pandemic death; staggering inequality; and sharpening divisions of all kinds. Why poetry?

RON: Poets through out the ages have been able to explain the unexplainable.  They have opened eyes through words and sometimes deeds.  Poets see what others can not and explain it in ways that that excites the mind.

JONATHAN: What is poetry?

RON: What is poetry? I had some tee shirts made up one time that I think says it well:
“Poetry exists because life needs some explanation”

PAUL: Next up is Therese Gleason (Carr) who was our featured poet from last May. She is the author of the chapbook Libation (Stepping Stones Press, 2006), co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition.  Her new chapbook Matrilineal is forthcoming, and can be preordered at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/matrilineal-by-therese-gleason/…

THERESE:  If you could meet any poet living or dead, who would it be and why?

RON: I had an experience when I was a young.  I went on a class trip to Sudbury Massachusetts to the Longfellow Inn.   At the time the room that Edgar Allen Poe stayed in was still standing with the original furniture.  The room lacked any natural light it was very dark and dingy.  There was windows but I believe there was shrubbery in front of them.  I could understand why the raven was written there.   He also wrote a very interesting poem called Bells.   The church next to the Inn rang the bells for all kinds of events, such as for deaths, fires, and things of that nature.   If you haven’t been there I really and truly hope you take the time to get there.   There is a restaurant in the Inn today a great place to take a wife or husband.   Edgar Allen Poe was a genius.

THERESE: What is a poem, or who is a poet, you return to again and again, in times of duress and personal struggle?

RON: Ogden Nash. He always cracked me up.   When I was in High School a teacher put one of his books on my desk and told me to read it.   It made it as far as my car for about four months.   One day out of boredom I started reading it and could put it down.

THERESE: If you could only write one hour a day, would you rather do it at midnight or noon?

RON: Oh, I’m a midnight or later writer.  It’s the only time I can find pure peace in my house.

PAUL: Our next interviewer is Brad Osborne, a very talented poet and blogger (whose blog Commonsensibly Speaking is one of my personal favorites) residing in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania who was the Virtual Poetorium’s featured poet this March…

BRAD: What is a subject near and dear to you that has found its way into more than one of your poems?

RON: Vietnam is near and dear to me.  I left a lot of me over there but I also started to learn how to write while I was there.   I refer back to Nam and a old flame I hurt pretty badly.  I never forgave myself for hurting her, I loved her deeply.

BRAD: Do you ever use a thesaurus when you write?

RON: I never used to but since I have aged some (hahaha) I tend to lean on my Thesaurus more and more. 

BRAD: If you could have lunch with one writer, past or present, who would it be?

RON: That’s a tough one for me but if I had to narrow it down to one poet to have lunch with.   I think I would chose Lawrence Ferlinghetti.   I saw him in person in San Francisco back in the mid sixties.  He left me in awe

BRAD: When or how do you decide a poem is finished?

RON: Honestly, I let my gut tell me when it’s done.  I don’t particularly write long poems, thats not to say I haven’t,  but I prefer to write one page poetry.  My cohort Paul Szlosek claims the titles to my poems are poems unto themselves.  I have a like to put a twist to the endings if I can, something no one is expecting.   That’s my enjoyment, playing with words, twisting them to mean something different than what they have been used for in the past.

PAUL: Now we have Meg Smith,  a writer,  poet, journalist, dancer, and events producer living in Lowell, MA,  who during the last year has become a frequent participant in the Virtual Poetorium’s open mic. Meg was the featured poet for the Virtual Poetorium’s Halloween edition last October. Her poetry has recently appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, The Cafe Review, Beliveau Review, and many other publications and anthologies, and she is author of five poetry books, and a short fiction collection, The Plague Confessor, available on Amazon at  megsmithwriter.com.

MEG: What is the most important thing anyone giving a poetry reading should know?

RON: Know your audience, by that I mean some audiences are more serious than others and others more jovial.   Over the years I have found its good to keep your poetry reasonably short, the longer poems need to be left in the books.  Long poems tend to put the crowd asleep no matter how good they are.  Keep your programs or shows fresh change them up all the time.  Humor is always a good thing, a short funny story always works well.   When Paul and I started the show out in Southbridge the one thing we agreed on was, the guest speakers at other shows often gets lost and we never get to know them as a person.   That is why we do exactly what you and I are doing right now.  When you do that before the guest speaker reads you have a better sense of who and what he or she is and it makes there poetry come alive because you now know how and who he or she is.   Be prepared to do some unpleasant things.  Every now and again someone will want to read something foul and you have to shut them off.   Your audience didn’t come to hear someone being lewd they came to hear poetry.   We, meaning both Paul and I got into a situation when we first started over that.   We put our foot down, look if you need to put a swear in a poem to accent or highlight a particular line so be it, but swearing one after the other in shock poetry we agreed was not what we wanted in our show.  Mostly have as much fun as you can, your audience will recognize it and love you for it.  Don’t be afraid of mistakes, they can be hilarious, God knows I’ve made enough of them, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

MEG: What has been the biggest challenge keeping a poetry reading series going through the pandemic?

RON: Once again I think shaking up the program is key to keep people involved.  In our case Paul is better at that than I am.  It’s a wonderful thing when two or more people can work together.   Paul and I are exactly polar opposites,  we talk out our differences and somehow it works out the best for our audience.  We agree that we can not always get our way, and we give it up to the other to pull it together.  Unfortunately, thats what wrong with our politicians today,  they have forgotten the art of graceful communication.   I tend to be out spoken on a lot of things and Paul and I leave those issues in the back room while do the show.

MEG: How does the experience of hearing poetry read aloud differ to you from reading poetry from the page (or tablet or whatever media)?

RON: Man, that’s a hard one to answer because it changes from month to month.  We have found that our on line program attracts people from all over the world who want to share there poetry.  Then other times many of the people that came to our show before answer the call to send in there poetry.  Paul and I decided to do the on line show just as if we were on stage in Southbridge.  I think it has worked well, if not better than the face time shows.  One thing Paul and I would like to do is, when the pandemic is over, put together a book of all the shows we have done on line.  I think it would be a fun book to read and look back at a time during the pandemic.

PAUL: Our last interviewer tonight is Howard J Kogan, who has been attending the Poetorium from the very beginning. Howard is is a retired psychotherapist, poet and writer who was our featured poet for the Virtual Poetorium last November. His books of poetry include Indian Summer published in 2011 by Square Circle Press and General Store Poems, a chapbook published in 2014 by Benevolent Bird Press. His latest book of poems, A Chill in the Air, was published in 2016 and is also available from the publisher, Square Circle Press.

HOWARD:  Is there a special poet that you have kept reading and re-reading?

RON: My special Poet would be Rod McKuen,  I credit him with saving my life while I was in Vietnam.   I was given one of his books on my way to Vietnam  “listen to the warm”.  I fell in love with the way he wrote and I also credit him with getting me to journal and write poetry in the middle of a war zone.  I managed to get everything he wrote while I was over there, he opened my mind.

HOWARD: What life experience(s) have most influenced your poetry?

RON: The war in Vietnam made a nineteen year old grow up very fast.  There are things I saw and did I still do not talk about.  I was a crew chief on a marine helicopter we did what was call dust off missions.  We did what others couldn’t or didn’t want to.   We flew at night to rescue Marines.   I was in the Navy but my earlier training was needed in Vietnam.  My nickname was “sweetness”  I didn’t get the name because I was a nice guy.

HOWARD: Of all the poems you’ve written, would you read us your favorite?  And tell us why it’s your favorite.

RON: This one of many of my favorite poems.   

Only now does this sound strange

One shouldn’t fear death
one should fear dying
too young or much too old
without some kind of legacy
of the life you have lived
Who will remember you
and those that do
for how long
Who in their right mind
would want to become a pile 
of buried carbon matter
without a name 
or not having some kind 
of reason, for having existed
Fear being forgotten
as if you had never been
The legacy I have left 
will be this
I have been a lover 
to the cruel mistress of the
cookie jar, snacks, and candy
and what I fear the most
in death 
Is having a full cookie jar
left along the side of my tombstone
by a thoughtless relative
and me,
forever, unable to reach
in for a cookie or more

—Ron Whittle (2020)

HOWARD: When did you first encounter poetry?  As a child?  An adult? Tell us the story.

RON: I think I already answered that in one of the previous questions.   I’m a bit of a jokester so I’ll leave you with this one:

Isn’t this just like me

Isn’t it just like me to be
unbuttoning your inhibitions
exposing your silk and lace
vulnerabilities
While wondering what 
you’d find in my
elastic banded
tighty whitey fragile frailties

—Ron Whittle (2021)

PAUL: Well, that includes this evening’s interview segment.  Thank you Jonathan, Therese, Brad, Meg, and Howard for such great questions! Now, everyone, let’s give tonight’s featured poet Ron Whittle a rousing round of applause while he walks to the podium to present his poetry…

RON: Thank you so much! You are all so very kind. The first poem I’m going to read is one I wrote on a day trip to Hampton Beach in New hampshire.   The poem itself has been read internationally by an international acclaimed poet.   I’m not allowed to use her name, as the decision to use this poem tonight was made at the last possible second and there just wasn’t enough time to get her approval…

I am half the sea and half the storms gale

I am a brother to the Moon
a tidal child
forever wondering
the call of the rising surf
And being by the sea 
is like an ongoing baptism
where your soul is washed clean
and can roam with the earth’s 
ever rising tides
We may be limited by
the borders of our skin
but there are no borders
barriers, or limits
put on our minds
And I have seen the sea
in ways our eyes can not perceive
where words could neither
define nor explain
and even though my heart
may wander
my soul will always be
one with the sea

—Ron Whittle (2020, Hampton Beach, NH

My next poem is one I wrote after my wife chewed me out for eatting to many cookies…

Only now does this sound strange

One shouldn’t fear death
one should fear dying
too young or much too old
without some kind of legacy
of the life you have lived
Who will remember you
and those that do
for how long
Who in their right mind
would want to become a pile 
of buried carbon matter
without a name 
or not having some kind 
of reason, for having existed
Fear being forgotten
as if you had never been
The legacy I have left 
will be this
I have been a lover 
to the cruel mistress of the
cookie jar, snacks, and candy
and what I fear the most
in death 
Is having a full cookie jar
left along the side of my tombstone
by a thoughtless relative
and me,
forever, unable to reach
in for a cookie or more

—Ron Whittle (2020)

Many of you know I have been battling bladder cancer for a number of years and the after effects of Agent orange that found me in Vietnam during that war.  I have learned much about myself and the people around me since I was infected with cancer.  Some people are sympathetic, others try to understand without trying to affend me and even more just don’t give a damned.   Some are friends and others are other wise.  This my explaination of being cancer-bound…

A condition that drains all the you
out of you

Okay, so I color outside of the lines a lot
and I like being on the fringe
but I will always error
in what I believe 
the truth as I know it to be

I have cancer
I am not my cancer
nor will I let my cancer be me
I will never let it own me
I am a Grandfather and a Veteran
and have responsibilities 
I have cancer
and I am not my cancer

I am your son
I am your brother
I am your father
A friend, a lover, a cousin
an uncle
or a husband you love

I am not cancer
It does not define me
even though it effects me

I have cancer

—Ron Whittle (2021)

This particular poem… I’m not sure where it came from, but I can assure you I wrote it…

Somehow we know that anything is still possible

Good things happen
when you’re naked and unafraid
Stop, go, walk here, drive there
Do this and some of that
Touch me here and there
Open slowly, we humans are fragile
This is between us and we need 
to drive like we just stole it
Take responsibility for who we are
not for what we aren’t
Wonder and be adventurous
in all that we offer each other
Do it inside and outside
and wherever we feel comfortable
forever forgetting 
we are too old to die young
Survive in each other minute by minute
and enjoy being there
Happiness is here and now
Don’t let go
This ride doesn’t require an explanation
nor do you need a photo ID 
or a vaccine passport
we only need to be the occupants 
of want and desire

—Ron Whittle (2021)

This next poem is one that is based off a true story of three couple that went on canoe camping trip up river into the wilderness of California back in the sixties…

The Lords of the Free Range

Away in the forest
The night waylaid by dancing maids
drunk on the cheapest ale, 
homemade wine, and very good smoke
The fires burn in open pits
and embers remember the cold 
as we danced to gather warmth
We forgot what we bargained for
finding ourselves up river on feces creek
the paddles floating down stream
miles ahead 
We, the Lords of our own intent
had bathed unabashed and naked
in the river watching our clothes
drift on down stream faster than
we could swim to retrieve the canoe
Intemperance clouded our judgement
We, castaways on distant shores
paved the landscape with huddled bodies
till mornings first light
When we hoped for divine intervention
to cover our body’s fruits before we are found
deep in this immense cathedral of woodland life
Besides the embarrassment
we outshine the beautiful 
outlines of each loveliness with
bug bites in places we didn’t even know we had
We covered ourselves with soft sheets of nothingness
the warmth of the rising sun
high lighting our blushing red cheeks
Knowing someday we will laugh 
blinded by the joy of being reborn
one time free range spirits

Epilogue: Later on after getting back to our cars in the off street parking area and a rapid dance trying not to be noticed, we got into other clothes.  We were approached by a forest ranger who had our canoe.  After the  explanation of what happened, he laughed and said we were not the first and suspected we would not be the last.  Thank god I’m not bashful or modest, surprisingly the girls weren’t either. The only loss was the paddles and a little bit of our dignity….smiling and still giggling.

—Ron Whittle (2021)

This next poem an explanation of sorts of my time in Vietnam…

The discomfort of telling this story
can only be told in passing
(it’s too painful any other way)

I have lived within my own world
for longer then, I would have liked 
but you know it’s not that bad 
It’s actually okay
everyone knows me here
They know I’m temperamental
and foulmouthed
and I blame it on the arts
even though it’s not their fault
When I should be directing my anger
at the remnants of the war
In a different lie, I would tell myself
we might have been laying 
side by side
and how miserable it was to
have parted 
and gone our different ways
I have plenty of scars 
both mental and physical
from the war
and regretting our separation
was just an added attraction
that I had to endure
In the beginning, God created
the words 
I just happened to find them 
in of all places a war zone
They haunted me long enough that I
was compelled to write them down
during the most anxious months 
and moments of my young life
The words lifted the veil of hidden 
beauty that I was not familiar with
during my trials and tribulations
during the war 
It was a place to find refuge
a place to find a moment of peace
in a war-weary mind
Home was just a distant memory
and you even further away
I only felt close to both when I wrote 
about you and the war
much of the war resembled sins
Reality was the sword that was used
cut my flesh
I never cared for the taste of blood
no more so than someone else’s
when it got up close and personal
Distant is laughter 
and the memories of better days
and I like many over here
thought one day I’m going to wake up
roll over on my side
and kiss the love of my life
good morning
I kept hoping it was going to be you
though by now, I knew you
had in all likelihood found another love
It seems almost vulgar
but I can’t forget my place on the 
daily menu over here
I am anything but decadent
and the worms will enjoy my pieces 
just the same
as death is almost assured
I was told
my life expectancy is counted in minutes
from the moment of takeoff

—Ron Whittle (2021, fifty-two years later*)

*Rewrite from a war journal written in the depths of the Tet Offensive 1969 from a helicopter crew chief/door gunners point of view

I’ll close out with a short poem…

This is an apology, I think

Speaking without thinking
is a particular specialty of mine
I was never immunized for stupidity
perhaps thats why I can’t control my tongue
I sometimes think I would be better off
giving you a piece of my mind
but I’m just to frightened
to cut it off

—Ron Whittle (04/24/17, Worcester, MA)

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my poetry with you tonight.

PAUL: I believe I am speaking for us all when I say you are very welcome and thank you, Ron! As always, your poetry was amazing! Everyone, now let’s show our appreciation for our founder and tonight’s feature by giving him a thundering round of applause… Ron Whittle, everyone!

Alright, it’s that time once again to present this month’s Poetorium group poem which this month was to be tentatively titled “A Multitude of Blessings”. To participate, people were asked to send us a blessing (or a wish) consisting of one to six lines with the first line starting with the word “May” such as “May you always have peace in your heart.” or “May your smile be your umbrella.”.  All contributions we recieved were compiled to create the following poem (I want to thank Ariel Potter, Howard J Kogan, Michel Duncan Merle, Robert Eugene Perry, and everyone else who wished to remain anonymous that contributed):

A Multitude of Blessings

May your troubles melt like the snow in May.

May all be calm and good on the land
as the sun smiles without scorching.

May you find your place in this world.

May the only stones in your path be precious ones.

May you feel connected to all living things.

May your steps radiate peace.

May kindness and compassion be your companions
.
May you live & breathe Love.

May your poetry flow from your heart
to your mind to your pen like a cascading waterfall.

May all your hugs be consensual.

May all your pants be comfortable.

May all your glass ceilings be easily shattered,

May all your letters arrive at their intended destinations.

May all your plans be clever
(but not enough to lead into mischief and land you in jail).

Normally this would now be the time when we would be taking a short intermission, but in order to streamline the show tonight, we are going to do like we did in the last few months and completely skip it. 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, 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 an American Sentence, a poetry form invented by the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in the mid-1980’s as a twist on traditional haiku. Like haiku, American Sentences consist of 17 syllables, but instead of being arranged into three lines, they are written as a single line or sentence. They also may or may not have a title.

Ken Slaughter generously shared with us some one sentence poems that he wrote which were originally published on a website called One Sentence Poems. Although they are not exactly American Sentences, since they follow no exact syllable count and are not written in a single line, they are very similar.  I asked Ken permission to convert one of these into a genuine American Sentence so I could include it here tonight, which he kindly granted. First here is his original poem:

At the Beach

At the beach
on our anniversary
she picks up
another piece
of driftwood.

—Ken Slaughter

Now here it is rewritten as an American Sentence in one continuous line and with 3 syllables omitted:

At the Beach

On our anniversary, she picks up another piece of driftwood.

—Ken Slaughter

Here is an untitled American Sentence submitted by Michel Duncan Merle:

Look through the leafy pattern—look straight up into the sky! High-five, SKY!

—Michel Duncan Merle

This is one was written by Sam Laslo, also without a title:

Frailty leads to humility; gets his wish with a Mack Jones pick.

—Sam Lalos

And now, another untitled American Sentence, this time by Howard J Kogan:

Racing after school buses should be an Olympic event for kids.

—Howard J Kogan

Robert Eugene Perry‘s submission consisted of two, both with titles:

Stars

So cold, they appear silver sparkling silhouettes set in ebony.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Dancers

Whirlwind of motion, yet graceful and purposeful in each step they take.

—Robert Eugene Perry

These are two I wrote which are titled:

Getting an Education

How ironic that many feel HIGH school was the LOW point in their lives.

—Paul Szlosek

Living in the Country

In mid-August, our black-tarred backroad bubbled like molten licorice.

—Paul Szlosek

I am going to conclude the segment with a “Found” American Sentence, taken from the first stanza of one of my own poems called “Unstill Life” which just happened to consist of exactly seventeen syllables:

From the heavens, a breeze descends and strips the cornfield of its stillness.

—Paul Szlosek

Okay, I’m now going to begin the open mic, like Ron usually does, with a poem of own. I thought it would be fun to let you hear “Unstill Life”, the poem which I took my “found” American Sentence from in it’s entirety. It was originally published in The Issue

Unstill Life

From the heavens,
A breeze descends
And strips the cornfield
Of its stillness.

Rustling stalks
Dispel the illusion
We walk amidst
A motionless tableau.

All tranquility might be
A trick of thought,
To lie in peace, a lie
Conjured by tired minds

Of men sick of motion,
Expecting Death
To deliver rest.
Yet Death races forward,

Keeping pace with Life –
Each an insomniac
Never ceasing
For a second.

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in The Issue)

Okay, first up on tonight’s open mic is Joe Fusco…

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE: 

A Wise Marital Strategy

My wife and I come home from work about the same time every weekday.
We eat dinner together.
We take a walk around the neighborhood.
We watch “Ozark” on Netflix.
We have ice cream for dessert.
We spend about five hours together most weeknights.
But it’s only after we go to bed and I put on my anti-snoring CPAP machine and my anti-grinding Dental mouthguard that Cyndi decides to discuss important matters.
“I think my Mother’s condition is getting worse. She should sell her house and move in with us,” she tells me.
“I can’t talk with all this stuff on my face,” I mumble.
“We lent our son $500 so he could buy snow tires before the winter,” she continues.
“You know I can’t freakin’ talk with this stuff on my face,” I again mumble.
These one-sided conversations were exasperating until I finally realized that Cyndi only has our best interests at heart.
After thirty-two years together, she knows I’m much better at seconding sound judgments then actually making them.
When she puts forward scenarios while I’m incapacitated at bedtime, she is not seeking my approval just my reasonable cooperation.
A Wise Marital Strategy …wait a minute…your Mother’s moving in with us??

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: And now please welcome to the podium, a past feature and one of tonight’s interviewers, Howard J Kogan…

Howard J Kogan

HOWARD: This poem has previously been published in A Chill in the Air and is available from Square Circle Press or Amazon.

My Wife, Four Months Pregnant, and I Take a Walk

On our October walk we stop to watch
a garter snake beside an old stone wall
weaving in and out flowing restlessly
through a lost world nudging aside fallen leaves
appearing, disappearing, a snake one moment
then only a quiver in the leaves.

Though by some people’s calculation
a lower member of our congregation,
she knows the season and seeks her winter home.
She stops to rest on a sunlit stone
and lifts her head to flick a fork-tongued lick,
no doubt to you.

A tribute to what you hold in common,
the seed of future generations.
She knows you’re pregnant – she can taste
it on the air – and recognizes you two hold
the future in gestation.  You talk of Eden
as we’re prone to do.

That fairy tale runs deep
but don’t insult her with biblical accusations.
She had no role in what was lost –
if anything was lost – beyond her reputation.
She was drafted for that holy war
like the first unfortunate pair.

Her plan is the same as ours, to survive winter,
to bring new life in spring.
See how she flattens on the stone,
she’s a sun worshiper like you.
She wants to carry the last of summer’s heat
to her winter den; summer is the only paradise she knows.

She knows too it will soon be lost.
Look, now she’s found her home
by some remembered scent,
the hole is there beside the stone.
A final glance and she pours into it
leaving us here alone.

Her leaving gives us pause,
as if by leaving
she meant to tell us to end this roam
not to tarry
to turn us back to home
to remind us what we carry.

—Howard J Kogan (from A Chill in the Air)

PAUL: Our next reader is Mishelle Goodwin…

MISHELLE:

WHAT I WOULD UNDO

What can I undo? I can undo the buttons on my shirt, I can undo a ball of yarn, and I can undo a rip in my favorite blanket. I can undo the hurt or pain I would cause every minute of every passing moment, I can undo the wrongs in my life and make them right again. I will take and undo the rips in my blankets. They are not hard or very easy to undo.

Purple and handmade. I even had another one made. I was sleeping one night and something startled me and I put my feet through it. My favorite purple blanket. Carrying on like a child crying “It’s rewound.” I was three different colors of purple. Making it over again and another on it’s way. All of my life all I collected were blankets, afghans, and my dreams to be with them sleeping and keeping me warm.

I can undo me from the buttons on my shirts. I can be the person I wanted to be. I believed in myself. I am proudly living my life and living each day by day. To the fullest. Cherished each and every day and everyone. By doing the things I am supposed to do. Enjoying what we love to do.

Healing within with my family taking away the hurt and pain we get from our mistakes to learning something new. Making a day just for me giving thanks for all I have. Had I slowed down before I crashed. To appreciate my time with my family and spend time with my friends. Staying away from drugs and alcohol learning to become a better person, a friend that I want to be was shaping me into a person I could not trust.

I had to stay safe to undo the wrongs I made right. I learned to live one day at a time. It taught me to love, laugh, and to be happy. Putting my life in these words taught me to enjoy life. Life never got me down. I looked on the bright side to feel better and to help me find a special joy in each and every thing I do. I can remember what is most important. The promises that I made by looking and reaching out to destiny.

Not by a matter of chance but as a matter of choice wanting something to wait for. I achieved fixing the hole in my blanket. From my rude awakening and my feet going through it. Besides after the rewound blanket, I was not very happy and I thought it would never fix my pain. The hardest hurt is the rewound blanket.

I can tell it will never be able to be fixed. It was my favorite blanket in the world. It kept me warm late at night. It was kept at the foot of my bed folded along its end and always smelled of my sweet breath and washed it with the washing machine and the dollar a wash cycle of a delicate rinse. Making sure I did everything right and as I went along my journey fixing things that are a must. I suddenly realize It was not me at all. I thought to myself but why? It looks like a bunch of easy problems to solve like in math. Where you try to find an answer. So I began asking questions.

Everyday of my life seemed like I was lived another life. I took care of myself cooking and cleaning as I went along day by day. Seeing people I had not seen for awhile. I made new friends and kept my old friends. Continued to go to school and working part-time. I loved to write, read a lot and did Art. Occupying my brain with knowledge of the future and events to come and on this journey I thanked GOD for every day that I was alive.

—Mishelle Goodwin

PAUL: And now please welcome back another past feature and an interviewer tonight, Meg Smith…

Meg Smith

MEG: This year on May 1, 2014 marked the seventh anniversary of my late husband’s passing. This day is a convergence of observances — the Beltane of my Irish heritage and also St. Joseph the Workers’ Day. 

As members of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! we had several events at St. Joseph the Worker shrine here in Lowell, so I  usually have his memorial Mass said this year. 

This year as it happened there was a beautiful ceremony for St. Joseph, with a procession, and African church members singing a chant to St. Joseph. Cardinal O’Malley was there, and it was quite wonderful to hear Larry’s name, said aloud in this space. 

Best Bopp, Holy Names

Lawrence Carradini’s Anniversary Mass.
St. Joseph The Worker Shrine, Lowell, Mass.

Larry your music is raining down
with the singing in praise of St. Joseph
and carrying of lilies and banners
to the altar, with your name
wafting to the rafters with the tang of incense
you were right, Larry, yes
I know you would be dancing with everyone
on the sidewalk, in Swahili and 
your Romani
your  Ladino 
your best Bopp — 
spirit speaks in every name — 
and this is how Joseph goes
and this is how the cosmos chills
in the finery of May

—Meg Smith

PAUL: Okay, next up is long-time Poetorium regular, Robert Eugene Perry…

Robert Eugene Perry

BOB: This is my entry into the anthology Migrations for later this year, another project from Lis McLoughlin & Paul Richmond who produced the Honoring Nature Anthology earlier this year.

Portals

Douglas State Forest

so many paths
each trail a new exploration
subtle, you need to pay attention
to the portals between the trees
where moss gathers
another world awaits.

your senses keen
dream awake another realm where
humans hunt, deer surrender
granting them another November,
balanced lives
and grateful hearts.

sit beside the stream which
slips through the forest floor, more
than it seems carrying detritus nourishing
flora and fauna, over and under rocks
singing, splashing, gurgling, laughing
bringing life.

woodpecker’s rhythmic thrumming
signals change, impermanence
new growth sprouts from dead rot
small creatures shelter in old stone walls
lichen covered bones of
yesterday’s civilization.
when my mother left this world
i spent a week in mourning, the
arboreal inhabitants heard my cries
passed no judgement, and at last
her sigh on the evening
breeze.

all things ephemeral, memory migrates
from then to now, and back again
stories we tell weave the tapestry
connecting families, clans, peoples
dreaming a vision, forging a
future.

—Robert Eugene Perry (2021)

PAUL: Our next poet is someone who has attended our Poetorium live shows in the past, but making his first appearance in the Virtual Poetorium. Please welcome Michel Duncan Merle…

MICHEL:  A haiku:

Mother’s Day flower arrangement
So I get it, mighty purty
So where’s the perfume go to?

—Michel Duncan Merle     

And now here is my very own cousin, Dwayne Szlosek with his latest installment of his epic tale of Nine Gun Billy…                                                

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

DWAYNE:

NINE GUN BILLY #4

It was May 24th, 1880. I went to the town of Frisbee,
there I walked into the gun shop to buy 20 dollars
worth of ammo, 32 caliber bullets. When I got back from Frisbee,
I set up a bunch of targets along the old wooden fence.
Tin cans and glass bottles were my targets.  
I loaded up my pistols. Started to shoot at the tin cans.
Missed every time. I reloaded my guns.
Tried shooting the glass bottles. But I missed them all.
I reloaded my gunshot into the cylinders of my pistols
when I heard a familiar sound. It was a rattlesnake,
which could have been what’s for dinner. I tried shooting the snake,
shot so much so that the serpent got pissed off and lunged at me.
I dropped my colt 45 to the ground. I twisted my body around,
coming up with my right hand, catching the poisonous rattler
by the back of the head. He missed me within an inch of my life.
I laid the snake down on the ground, still  holding on to it.
I took out my Bowie and cut its head off, leaving me with dinner.

After supper, i decided to do some more target practice with my six shooters.
I loaded my pistols with 32 caliber shot, and took careful aim at the tin cans
on the fence. I pulled the trigger, the shot ringing out upon hitting my target.
It was a glorious day for me, so I shot again, hitting the other tin cans.
It felt good to hit the targets. I was interrupted by a man on his horse
galloping and shooting at me. I picked up the snake head off the ground.
I stood sideways, throwing the head of the snake at him, hitting the stranger
in the nose with it. The head of the serpent injected its venom into his nose,
and the man fell off his horse, dying from the poisonous snake  bite.
He was one of the nine who was sent to kill me. His name was Soy.
Soy was a stocky man, short with black hair. His clothes were black,
red, and white, made of silk. He wore sandals with a bowler type hat
with some kind of writing on it, and his teeth were somewhat nice.
I took his pistol and gun belt, sold his horse and saddle for $25.
He did not have any money. I dragged Soy’s body
out into the grassy plains to feed Jack the Vulture.

Nine Gun Billy

—Dwayne Szlosek (copyright 05\15\2021)

PAUL: Now please welcome a poet who is making his debut at the Poetorium (Virtual or otherwise) – Sam Lalos….

SAM:

Youthful Memories

Going to the botanical gardens,
Fishing for plastic play fish,
Ducks, and swans–
They were beautiful–
Being fed,
Tying a string to my toy ocean liner,
Floating on water.

Father strapping me onto his back,
Then riding on his motorcycle at night,
Through the endless streets
Of the city of the goddess Athena,
Lights swirling,
Sounds jumbled,
Breeze on my legs,
Breeze on my face,
Hair flying.

They took my ball
With colors like Joseph’s robe,
And I watched them play soccer
With it, by it, for it.
They wouldn’t let me play.

The poor kids talked me into
Not buying candy,
But paying to see a puppet show.
It was a good show,
I got my money’s worth.

Lying on my back,
In a field of poppies,
Looking up into the sky,
Not realizing
What I was about to give up.

It turned out for the best.

—Sam Lalos

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

Ariel Potter

ARIEL:

Walking the grounds of the old Medfield state hospital

Massive red brick buildings stand at attention,
silent and menacing. They look like soldiers towering
over us and the ghosts of patients past.
They seem to say “Born twenty years earlier,
you could have ended up here, locked in a ward
for decades, drugged and loveless.”

There was a time when a woman
without a husband and children,
shrieking, and too sad to work in a shop or factory
would have been sent to one of these places
to become one of hundreds of grey figures
moaning and laying in hospital beds.
I have lived in a place like that for months,
wire mesh over the windows, four to a room,
sweating and stinking, flashlights in our faces
every half hour, where time stood still.
Hours were marked by cigarette breaks
and afternoon visits with my boyfriend –
the only thing that kept me living.
He would bring me homemade sandwiches
and cokes that had to be poured into a paper cup.

One thing about mental hospitals
is that there is a lot of silence,
not the good kind like out in the Cathedral of the Pines,
but the dreadful type punctuated by muttering
and scoldings by low paid workers
who shuffle us along the corridors.

I think of my life now,
the mornings are peaceful,
drinking coffee and going online to see
what is happening in the world.
Some may think of my life
as marginalized or disadvantaged,
but I can walk outside to the grocery store
and buy food of my own choosing,
bring it home and cook it,
eat whatever I want whenever I want.
I  can remember standing in line to buy bad coffee
at the cantine off the empty lobby,
or in the basement of the hospital,
waiting for inedible meals,
the red light over the door to the cafeteria
making it feel like it was the devil’s own dining room.

A decade later in my own apartment
grateful as a prisoner released,
being free on a Tuesday afternoon
in the Fall is still thrilling,
having thoughts like ” I can’t wait to go
to Boston and buy perfume”
or ” Let’s go to a matinee, and sneak in
snacks from the Dollar Store”.
I chat, I laugh, I stroke my cat,
kiss the same man who stuck by me
and go to the diner together down the street
while it is still dark out, where I am just ordinary
and thankful, eating eggs and appreciating
the pink and orange sunrise out the window
like anyone anywhere.

—Ariel Potter

PAUL: Although I hate to do it, it’s time for me to end the show. But before I do, I want to thank everyone that participated in tonight’s program including everyone in the virtual open reading as well as the contributors to the group poem and the form writing challenge. You are all amazing and without your support, there would be no Poetorium! And of course, I want to especially thank tonight’s feature, the man who started it all, Ron Whittle. Without him, I and everyone else would not be here tonight, or any night. So to honor him, I’d like to revive a tradition that Ron originally started in the first few live shows, but later discontinued.  Ron would write a brand new poem specifically created to say goodbye and close out each show. So here is mine composed especially for tonight. Now it being me, of course, it has to be a form poem. It’s a sestina, but not an ordinary one, but an obscure variant created by the brilliant poet Miller Williams called “The Shrinking Sestina”. Like a regular sestina, each stanza uses the same set of six end words in a different order, but the lines in each succeeding stanza gets shorter and shorter until in the sixth stanza, each line is composed of only one word apiece. My shrinking sestina is called “The  Incredible Shrinking Not-Wanting-to-Say Farewell Sestina”, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it…

The Incredible Shrinking Not-Wanting-to-Say Farewell Sestina

It may seem like it will be many years, but we’ll congregate again soon,
try to squeeze in all the precious things we miss within a single hour,
while knowing this meeting of mutual hearts and minds will pass too.
Perhaps there is for gods, but for us, there’s no permanence to time.
In this finite universe, every scenario, every possibility ends.
That is the ultimate truth we all must eventually discover together.

So it’s only natural we seek the comfort of being together,
though that comfort is fleeting, passing too soon.
It’s a certainty that almost everything ends,
but the choice of the way we face that certainty is ours.
Every decision we consider is bound by the construct of time,
yet all actions we do not take are constricted by it too.

I suspect this may be happening to you too –
my favorite memories are of when we’re all together,
but those memories are slowly fading with time.
Perhaps they’ll all be gone fairly soon,
so I hope this meeting will not be our
last. I feel so depleted when they end.

Our connection never ends.
There ‘s something that binds us to
one another that goes on for hours,
days, years. Apart, we’re still together,
knowing we’ll meet in person soon –
it’s just a simple matter of time.

Since moments in time
tend to end
so damn soon,
we should try to
be together
in the final hour.

Our
time
together
ends
too
soon.

And as this poem ends, so does this conversation too.
But don’t fear, we’ll soon meet again for another hour
or so, perhaps at a different time or place, yet we’ll be together.

—Paul Szlosek (05/25/2021)

Thank you once again, everyone! Ron and I hope to have another regular edition of the Virtual Poetorium ready for you next month in June, but we also are working on a special Father’s Day project that we are really excited about and will be announcing within a few days. So until then, good night and please take care!