Virtual Poetorium (May 26, 2020)

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The Virtual Poetorium
May 26, 2020

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Ron Whittle

RON: Well, hello everyone, this is our third Covid19 pandemic show from the Poetorium.  The series has been a huge success.  Well, to start off with, I have some goods news and some bad news.  The bad news first.  On Sunday, May 3rd I was raced to Emergency ward at the UMASS Worcester Campus.  I could barely breathe and felt like I was going to pass out.  The other symptoms I recognized as heart attack symptoms, chest pains, real bad heartburn, and jaw pain.  At the time I thought for sure I was going down for the count.  With only a quick covid19 test I was on my way to the operating room.  They (the hospital staff and Doctors in the ER) barely had time to do an EKG on me.  The next thing I remember was laying on the operating room table being asked a million questions about my health.  Then I woke up with wire’s coming out of my neck and being attached every medical machine you can imagine in the cardiac ICU.  That night was a long one.  In the morning a team of doctors came to visit me, and the poking and prodding began.  After a while the head Doctor told me, when I came in I had no real good reason to be alive. He went on to say my heart rate was the lowest he had seen in years.  It floated just below 30 to a little over 30.   It was then he told me the wires coming out of my neck are attached to an external pacemaker.  He also told me that I was going to need a permanent pacemaker put into my chest.  I had a heart attack 10 years ago and had stents put in.  About 6 years later I was having AFIB attacks and had to go in for surgery twice for that.  In between they found I had bladder cancer but that’s another story for another time.  A few hours later I was back in the OR wired into every monitor they have.  The Doctor came in and told me I was in good hands and not to worry.  Then they put a tent over my face and I woke up 4 hours later with a brand new pacemaker in my chest.  Then I was put in a recovery area for a little while and shipped off to my room.  I felt like someone had beat me with a baseball bat in my chest area.   Eventually, I given some pain medication.  The Nurses were wonderful to me and the two that were assigned to me both were avid poetry readers.   I did eventually tell them that I write and speak a lot and event host a show in Southbridge.  My wife, though she could not come in the hospital to see me, brought up my cell phone charger and four or five of my books, which I autographed and gave to them.  Now, for the good news.  I’m back in better health than I was before, even though I have to take it easy for 6 weeks.   So I guess I will be around long enough to haunt you guys for a while longer.

Okay now that that is done.  We are going to dispense with reading the rules of the show, by now all of you know what they are.  This is where I open the show with a poem but before I do.  I’d like to tell you a little bit about a wonderful Poet, Paul and I heard,  half a year ago at another show.   She impressed us so much so we invited her to speak here to you guys.  Our Guest speaker is Therese Gleason Carr and you guys are just going to love her I promise.  I will leave it up to Paul to formally introduce her in a little while.  Moving along the poem I’m going to read tonight is one I wrote years ago in the midst of the Vietnam war.  I had broken up with the love of my life shortly before joining the Navy. By the time I got to Vietnam, I could barely live with myself for what I had done to her.  I loved her more than anything and could do nothing about it from my precarious position.

It’s just a dirt road in the jungle

Detaching for that something
I have not forgotten
The others told me all I do is feed my delusions
in a search to carry out a promise and prayer
I uttered what seems like an eon ago
in the dark of the night
under heavy enemy gunfire and mortar rounds
It’s your name on my lips in a strange land
It’s the bad choices I made
it seems that is what I do best
Betrayal is the match I lit blowing up my life
and the death that surrounds me that turns my heart to stone
It’s our passion colliding with my dreams when I can sleep
which isn’t often anymore
It’s my fear I’ll be shot dead before I can clean up my mess
It’s forbidden lust awakened by the thoughts of you
It’s the ugly way war is carried out
It’s the ghost of holding your hand
It’s the need to tell you the truth before I die
It’s that there are no phones to call you on
It’s not having a phone number where I could reach you
It’s not having an address for you
It’s not knowing where you are
or how to contact you
It’s not like you’re sitting around waiting for me to call
or write
It’s the fear that you don’t want to hear from me
It’s the fear I’ll never be able to tell you about
And it still comes down to
the prayer I prayed and the promise I made
to somehow find you if I survive

—Ron Whittle (taken from  his war journals dated 1969 South Vietnam
rewritten 5/16/17)

And just so you know when I found this a few days ago and read it, I wept. Even after fifty years it still bothers me.

All right enough of the Ron Whittle show lets move onto the Paul Szlosek show. Take it away Paul!

PAUL: Thanks, Ron! Once again, it’s time for the segment we call “Spotlight on a Southbridge Poet”. To clarify, our definition of a Southbridge Poet  is one who was either born, raised, lived, or died in the town of Southbridge, Massachusetts, home of the Poetorium at Starlite. For example, since I was born and raised here, I would qualify, but Ron, who was born in Shrewsbury would not (so sorry, Ron). I am honored to announce that tonight ‘s spotlight is shining on Bruce Galli, an amazingly talented poet who I have had pleasure of knowing for many years.

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Bruce Galli

Bruce was born, raised, and schooled in Southbridge. but after living in other parts of the country including California, he now resides in the nearby town of Dudley. Receiving degrees in Media/Theatre Arts and English from Worcester State College, and Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bruce made a small number of independent films including “The Toyer”, a short psychological thriller, which he wrote, directed, and starred in.

It was in his capacity as a film-maker, when I first met Bruce, interviewing him for a class in 1983 when I was attending Worcester State College But it was a dozen years later, when I was running and hosting the Poet’s Parlor, a poetry venue in Sturbridge where Bruce became a regular attendant that I became aware of his fantastic talent for poetry and truly began to know him. The poem of his that I will be sharing with you tonight is a brilliantly crafted piece written with just 3 syllables per line:

Laughing and
Ah! La! Ah!
Parrying
In the Air

La. Ah! La!
Ah! La! Ah.
Just three breaths
Are allowed
Us for this.
Believe it
From the cat
On the mast
High upon
The Crow’s nest.
It’s the fact
Of an act
Committed
From the bridge
That, madly
Does shadow
A phantom
It’s the air
Of our pride
Keeping course
With Icebergs,
It’s Jesus
Forgiving,
Alone, and
Forsaken
As His last
Words uttered
To His God
Do commend
His Spirit.

—Bruce Galli

PAUL: As Ron mentioned earlier, we are so excited to have Therese Gleason Carr as our featured poet at the Virtual Poetorium tonight, having attended her feature at Barnes & Noble in Worcester about a year and a half ago. We were so blown away by what we heard, we immediately invited her to be our feature at the actual Poetorium at Starlite in Southbridge for this May. This, of course, was long before the ongoing public health crisis began, and so when we had to cancel the live show, we reached out to Therese, and she graciously agreed to remain our feature in the virtual version. Before we call her up to the virtual stage to be interviewed, I’d like to tell you a little more about Therese:

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Therese Gleason Carr

Therese Gleason (Carr) is author of the chapbook Libation (Stepping Stones Press, 2006), co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition. Her work has appeared in Limestone, PlainsongsThe Worcester ReviewAmerica: The Jesuit Review, and is forthcoming in the New Ohio Review. She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at Pacific University, and lives in Worcester, MA with her husband and three children. A feature of her work is available online at Off the Margins, a site featuring women’s writing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to our virtual stage, Therese Gleason Carr!

RON: Geez, what a great introduction, Paul. Therese, please have a seat while Paul and I interview you. I always start off with a few easy questions. I always like learning a little something about our guest speaker’s life because most of the time we only know what your bio tells us. This is your chance to be candid and funny if you like with us about your life. My first question is so who is Therese Gleason Carr anyway?

THERESE; Mom of three, poet, educator, quasi-southerner with a midwestern twist, wife, double-twin (I’m a twin and the mother of twins), friend, unofficial family historian, astrology buff, non-native Spanish speaker, former marathon runner, erstwhile vegetarian, sweet tooth, inveterate napper, ceiling gazer, not necessarily in that order.

RON: Where have you come from, (meaning what city and state)?

THERESE: I was born in Springfield, Illinois, moved to St. Louis, Missouri when I was a toddler, and then spent most of my formative years in Kentucky, growing up in Louisville and then attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington for my undergraduate degree in Spanish and my masters in English. I also spent a summer living in Cape Coast, Ghana, and lived two years in Madrid, Spain, two years in Washington, D.C., and over a decade in Columbia, South Carolina. We moved to Worcester from South Carolina five years ago this summer for my husband to take a position directing the International Development, Community, and Environment department at Clark University, and I’m proud to call central Massachusetts home. I heart Worcester!

RON: Who influenced your abilities in writing?

THERESE: I am fortunate to come from a family of readers and lovers of literature and art. I grew up being read to from as far back as I can remember, including my father reading me and my two sisters picture books and then The Little House on the Prairie series when we were in preschool. My mother is a voracious reader and I have always marveled at her ability to completely lose herself in a book – probably a survival mechanism for a mother of five. She took us to the library practically weekly and we read rather than watch much T.V., which she limited stringently.

My grandfather, too, was a huge influence, never failing to ask me (and his other two-dozen plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren), what I was reading. He introduced me to Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose poems he could quote by heart. A medic in World War II at age nineteen, he went on to father seven children and have a long career as a cardiologist, after which, in his retirement, in between learning French and golfing daily, he wrote three memoirs and was at work on his fourth at the time of his death. Not long before he died, he passed the torch to me when I congratulated him on his third self-published book, saying “you’re next.”

RON: Who is your most loved poet (or poets) and why?

THERESE: This is so hard to answer…but it’s probably Stanley Kunitz, for his humanity, imagination, intelligence, and the beauty of his language and insights. I could go on for pages about all the others I also adore…so I’ll spare everyone and stick with just one.

RON: Do you have children and do you write anything for them? Or about them?

THERESE: I have three spirited children who amaze me and make me laugh every day: my oldest daughter is thirteen and my twins, a boy and a girl, just turned ten. They sometimes find their way into my writing, but I don’t tend to write things specifically for them.

RON: How much time do you spend writing? Like, do you write every day?

THERESE: I write almost every day, but that has not always been true. When my children were younger, I had long dry spells of not reading or writing poetry. I find it’s an ongoing process to carve out the time and space I need to write while being flexible based on my other roles and responsibilities, namely parenting and teaching literacy/reading intervention to students with dyslexia and other learning differences.

RON: Paul, do you have any questions you’d like to ask Therese?

PAUL: Yes, thank you, Ron. I do have a few…

Therese, can you tell us what it is like to pursue your Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and do you think that is something every poet should do?

THERESE: I couldn’t speak to what other poets should do, but I am infinitely grateful that I took the plunge and have been able to pursue my MFA at Pacific University. I pondered doing this for years, and finally decided on a low-residency format, to allow me to keep working and taking care of my family while learning from a roster of poets so outstanding that I literally pinch myself that I get to study with them: Kwame Dawes, Mahtem Shiferraw, Marvin Bell, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Ellen Bass, and Shara McCallum, to name a few. In fact, I sought out Pacific University knowing Kwame Dawes was on the faculty, having been fortunate to work with him before. My main goals in undertaking the MFA were to cultivate a daily/near daily and regular reading and writing practice that I can sustain and maintain in the midst of ‘real life’ and my other family and work responsibilities; to improve my craft; and to find a community that supports and inspires me.

So far, one year into the program, I can say my investment is already paying off in spades. I am so glad I gave myself this gift, and fortunate to be have this opportunity. The way the program works is that over two years, we attend five intensive, in-person residencies with daily workshops, craft talks, and readings of 10 days each, which happen to be in beautiful Forest Grove and Seaside Oregon. During each of the four semesters, we are matched with a faculty mentor and advisor, with whom five packets of work are exchanged throughout the semester; these include about 4-6 poems each, and three reading commentaries on poetry collections. Each semester, our faculty advisors help us create a reading list of 20 books; third semester includes a critical essay and the fourth semester includes a creative thesis. The program at Pacific has an inimitable combination of rigor and warmth, and is genuinely friendly and supportive while also challenging each writer to be their best.

PAUL: Do you ever do research while writing a poem, and if so , are there any particular subjects that you learned a lot more about now because of your poetry?

THERESE: I have benefited from the extensive genealogical research that my great aunt did on my maternal line: I have used the citations in her two meticulously researched books as a springboard for continued digging via ancestry.com and other online and archival sources. This has informed a cycle of poems (some of which were featured here), and that I am continuing to work on. Something I learned through this research is that one branch of my family has deep roots in New England going back to the earliest days of the colonies, with involvement in such formative events as the Salem witch trials and the American Revolution.

PAUL: Can you tell us a bit about your process of writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?

THERESE: Well, usually I begin writing by hand in a composition notebook, one of those speckled black and white ones with a mechanical pencil, sometimes from a prompt and sometimes when the spirit moves me. Then I move to the computer and type the poem, which allows me to manipulate the lines and language more easily. I tend to make many versions and changes, sometimes printing poems out and marking them up, sometimes emailing them to myself and reading them over and over at different times of day and in different places. I also read my poems out loud to try to refine the lineation and sonic elements. I’m lucky to have a couple of wonderful writing groups in which we read and share comments on each other’s work every week/biweekly. Having community to help refine the work and be in conversation with other poets is something I sought for a long time, and I am grateful to have this in my life now.

PAUL: How did your chapbook Libation come about? For instance, is this a collection of poetry you previously written, or did you write poems specifically for this chapbook?

THERESE: I didn’t set out to write a chapbook; Libation (Stepping Stones Press, 2006) came about from my daily journaling and poetry writing during the summer of 2000, when I spent May to August in Cape Coast, Ghana, with my now-husband Ed Carr, who was working on archaeological and ethnographic research in two small villages called Ponkrum and Dominase, just inland from Cape Coast. I carried my notebook everywhere and crafted poems out of my observations and experiences. I returned to Kentucky and workshopped some of the poems in my classes led by James Baker Hall, with a phenomenal group of peers. Then for two years the poems sat while I taught English in Madrid. When we moved to Columbia for my husband to take a position at the University of South Carolina, I was incredibly lucky to encounter the South Carolina Poetry Initiative at the university, headed by Kwame Dawes.

This is kind of like a fairy tale, but he graciously offered to read my manuscript and provided detailed, generous feedback. I also participated in the SC Poetry Initiative’s First Book Project, a small (free, open to the public) group of poets with manuscripts they were working to arrange into collections. We took turns reading each other’s manuscripts and providing feedback on the order and coherence of the pieces as a whole as well as making other editorial suggestions. It was led by Ed Madden, an incredible poet and teacher, and several of us ended up getting published afterwards. I entered my chapbook in the inaugural South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition, and it was a co-winner, selected by Kwame Dawes and published by the Poetry Initiative at the University of South Carolina. It was a dream come true and a combination of luck and timing that I happened to be in the right place at the right time to access such a marvelous poetry community. I didn’t quite realize at the time how unusual and charmed my experience was, but I do now, and will always be grateful.

RON: So unless Paul has any more questions… no?…well then, please give our guest speaker Therese Gleason Carr a large round of applause as she takes to the podium to present poems from her chapbook, Libation:

THERESE:

THE WEIGHT OF OCEANS

I will wear a white
slip to my ankles,
binding my breasts
to my chest
like two smooth
flat pebbles.

I will drape a shroud
across my hips.
I will tie it at my navel
in a hard knot
with a fat satin
bow in back.

I will bury my face
in the lilacs I hold
in my hands,
purple branches
like witches’ fingers.

I will wear a white
dress and my feet will catch
in its hem like an undertow.
I will tumble in the weight of oceans,
and my veil will twist
around my throat,
a noose of pearls,
baby teeth,
and bone.

—Therese Gleason Carr (from Libation)

FISHERMEN

I hear them before I see them, chanting a song
to keep time, voices struggling
against wind and waves.
The men are shirtless, sweat
glistening on black skin. They pull
at heavy ropes; jerk, step, jerk, step,
yanking the net closer to shore
with each backward lurch.

The bodies descend in size
at the end of the line, where a small boy sits,
legs in front of him like a plank.
He winds the lengthening rope round a peg stuck in the sand.
An older boy shouts instructions
as the younger one heaves and twists.

Heads and chests bob in the breakers,
fanning out like points on a starfish.
They spread the giant net to its full width,
reaching the horizon where a wooden boat
rides the waves like a rocking horse.

Later, when the day’s work is done,
people will crowd the beach to claim the fresh catch.
The fishermen will bathe in the sea,
naked and shiny on wet rocks,
and return home salty and scorched.

Tomorrow will be like yesterday
and today like next year, or one hundred years ago.
The men will rise and fall with the tides,
rolling forward and back, like dancers
swaying to the sound of their own heartbeats.

—Therese Gleason Carr (from Libation)

CAPE COAST

I am dog-starred and cross-eyed here
waist deep in wonder and wary
I sleepwalk through the streets of Cape Coast
with my blinders on like a spooked horse
my eyes know
what I want them to avoid
naked children on skinny legs
holding out palms like parched leaves
begging for rain or money
cardboard houses with tin roofs
held down by hunks of rock and brick
where whole families sleep
on packed dirt floors
that stooping women have swept smooth
with the swishing waltz
of their homemade brushes
bundles of sticks held together in the hand
with strips of fabric or plastic
clothes are drying everywhere in the hot sun
on rocks and walls
some have blown to the ground in the wind
and I see faded t-shirts with American logos
and brightly colored cloth
for wrapping around heads and waists
or under babies’ bottoms on backs
tucked tightly over breasts
at the highest points in the city
on the hills the ruins
of stately colonial structures
loom over the sprawling jumble below
facing the ocean to receive the cool breeze
their verandas and balconies generous
as a hostess offering a tray of sweets
and I can imagine the parties there
the rich food and wine
the music floating on the sea air safely above
the rot running through the gutters
I picture homesick white wives shielding
their eyes from the sun pacing
the balconies and scanning the horizon
for the ships coming in and going out
of the old slave fort below
a hulking monster
now whitewashed clean and bright
to stand out against the blue-green sparkle of the sea
a castle with walls eight feet thick
flanked by tour buses like sentinels
and sunburned abrafo
with smiling faces and filled out frames
cameras hanging heavy around their necks
dangling like cast iron shackles

—Therese Gleason Carr (from Libation)

OBRUNI BESIA

I stumble through crowded streets,
legs wobbly as a newborn colt’s.
I trip over children dodging sellers
with fruit and eggs and fabric on their heads.
A cringe corrupts the corners of my smile.
My gaze winces,
apologizes for my presence.
I feel like a child, naked
and vulnerable as my white skin
under the hot sun
and the blaze
of so many eyes.

Children follow me, singing
Obruni, how are you,
I am fine, thank you
over and over,
hoping for a coin
or treat.

Market women eye me,
hands on hips,
heads cocked.

Obruni besia

White woman,
skinny and shapeless
as a small boy,
bland and colorless
like boiled cassava.

—Therese Gleason Carr (from Libation)

MAHTAHNAH’S SONG

Mahtahnah,
your name like mother and morning,
you rub my hands and feet
with shea butter and sweet oils.
I tell you of the nightmares,
my leaden limbs still slumbering.
I can’t run from the flies
and the fetish priests,
the skinny girl
with the crust around her eye
in dreams or real life.
I don’t know which is which anymore.

You tell me when you were barely six
there was a great shaking
and scratching of your bedroom walls.
Your mother in the next room
couldn’t hear your moans.
You knew you were awake
but you couldn’t move.
No one could hear you or help.
You give me your book,
show me how to breathe again,
show me your stones,
the purple one around your neck,
your rings to protect you.

Tonight I conjure
the straightness of your spine,
your smooth brown brow, your fingers
coaxing, easing an exhalation.
I keep your face behind my eyes and sleep
like one of your daughters.

—Therese Gleason Carr (from Libation)

LIBATION

Last night I dreamed of your gold
hoop earrings but I didn’t see your face
this morning I stood over your grave
while Nana Kwame poured libation on your bones
and the dirt that ate your skin and muscles
and drank your cooling blood
he looked up at the sky and down at the earth
and spoke to you
he explained
we didn’t mean to uncover you
and so we water you with akpeteshi
clear alcohol that burns my throat when I drink
from the orange plastic cup in your name

I don’t know your name but you are woman and young
they buried you flex-kneed and fetal
with your legs curled and your arms folded under your cheek
they buried you under your bed
like you were sleeping like before you were born
when you swam inside an ocean of warm waters
encased in a skin within a skin that has fallen away

I didn’t know what naked meant until I saw your brown bones
delicate and crumbling not white and clean like in books
seeing your outline in the earth feels more secret
than the inside of another person’s body
and I want to protect the fragile pieces of you
I want to caress them and stroke them
the femur and bits of kneecap
the rusty ulna and radius
the sponge-like pieces of your spine
your skull is missing and your hands too
and I wonder what your lips looked like your breasts
your bones are out of order
crushed and eaten by the heavy red clay

I want to gather you together in my arms
and whisper to you that I know you are beautiful
I want to re-string all the green glass seeds
from your waist beads for you
and tie them around your brown firm navel
I want to take your hand in mine
and run into the bush with you
into the wetness and animal sounds
of the shade from the flat-topped trees
that used to be here before
they cut them down and burnt the red clay to orange rock
before they laid you down
and bent your arms and legs
beneath you

—Therese Gleason Carr (from Libation*)

*Originally published in Plainsongs

PAUL: Thank you so very much, Therese..That was just incredible! Everyone, to show our appreciation for such a great feature, let’s put our hands together, and give a rousing round of applause for Therese Gleason Carr!

Now we have come to the portion of our program where we pay tribute to a dead poet. Earlier I put out a call for suggestions, and received quite a few. We are so grateful for them all, but first person we heard back from was Gail Schuyler. Gail, could you please come up on the virtual stage?

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Gail Schuyler

Gail, could you tell us which poet you suggested?

GAIL: Edgar Guest

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Edgar Albert Guest

PAUL: Great choice! Will you tell us a little bit about him, Gail?

GAIL: Edgar Albert Guest was a British-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People’s Poet. His poems often had an inspirational and optimistic view of everyday life. Guest was appointed Poet Laureate for the State of Michigan in 1952. The text of the resolution includes: “Thousands of people in the State of Michigan throughout the years have looked to the poems of Edgar A. Guest for moral support in times of stress and have enjoyed his subtle humor and homespun philosophy.”

PAUL: Wow, that is so cool! Could you share with us some of your reasons why you personally like the poetry of Edgar Guest ?

GAIL: I love his poetry because of its inspiration. As I go for the Masters in English at a late stage in life, in his poem “It Couldn’t be Done,” I hear him say, “Just Do It!” and do not listen to any naysayers. I also deeply appreciate his love of Nature and Living to make a difference while not worrying about dying!

PAUL: Excellent! Gail will now present us with three Edgar Guest poems that she chose for tonight’s Dead Poet Tribute. Please take it away, Gail!

GAIL:

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

—Edgar A. Guest

Have You Earned Your Tomorrow

Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
This day is almost over, and its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?

Did you give a cheerful greeting to the friend who came along?
Or a churlish sort of “Howdy” and then vanish in the throng?
Were you selfish pure and simple as you rushed along the way,
Or is someone mighty grateful for a deed you did today?

Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that’s slipping fast,
That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed?
Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said;
Does a man whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day, or lose it, was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent?
As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that God would say,
You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?

—Edgar A. Guest

The Call

I must get out to the woods again, to the whispering tree, and the birds a-wing,
Away from the haunts of pale-faced men, to the spaces wide where strength is king;
I must get out where the skies are blue and the air is clean and the rest is sweet,
Out where there’s never a task to do or a goal to reach or a foe to meet.

I must get out on the trails once more that wind through shadowy haunts and cool,
Away from the presence of wall and door, and see myself in a crystal pool;
I must get out with the silent things, where neither laughter nor hate is heard,
Where malice never the humblest stings and no one is hurt by a spoken word.

Oh, I’ve heard the call of the tall white pine, and heard the call of the running brook;
I’m tired of the tasks which each day are mine, I’m weary of reading a printed book;
I want to get out of the din and strife, the clang and clamor of turning wheel,
And walk for a day where life is life, and the joys are true and the pictures real.

—Edgar A. Guest

PAUL: What a great tribute to Edgar Guest… thank you, Gail!

We’ll be taking a short intermission before we begin our virtual open mic, but before we do, it’s time to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month’s theme was “what we miss” with people being asked to email us one to six lines starting with the phrase “I miss… “. All contributions (which will remain anonymous) were then compiled into the following poem:

What We Miss…

I miss leaving the house without a mask.
I miss freely walking in the park without social distancing.
I miss having my hair trimmed.
I miss going to Church.

I miss crowds of happy people.
I miss Friday afternoon traffic.
I miss sitting down at a restaurant.
I miss handshakes and hugs.
I miss faces without masks.

I miss people watching
as I sip coffee
at a local coffee house.

I miss my marbles.

I miss my mind more than anything else
(I think I lost it sometime over the past
couple of months in lockdown).

I miss elevator doors closing, we seven
breathing slowly with syncopated gulps
of trapped air, hoping, beyond ourselves
that this box will hold us, that gravity
won’t let us down.

I miss the sweetness
of deer each morning
gathered in small groups
where yard meets verge
before they ease forward
to steal windfall apples.

I miss the sight of barn swallows swooping low
over cornfields at dusk, the distinctive shape of their crescent wings
and forked tails silhouetted against a darkening sky in the pursuit
of mosquitoes before flying away, only to be replaced by
a steady stream of little brown bats (as if nature’s night shift
was arriving to relieve the denizens of the day).

I miss those lazy summer days
with my cousin Paul, going yardsailing
and exploring cemeteries.

I miss riding in my girlfriends ‘ cars
while smoking and drinking coffee,
listening to the radio and laughing.

I miss so much who we once were.
I stare longingly at our past like a voyeur.
That couple in the photo – you’re not him, I’m not her.
When did we both grow so old? My memory’s a blur.
Of only this, I’m absolutely sure –
I miss so much who we once were.

Well, that concludes the first part of the Virtual Poetorium. We’ll now be taking a short break so you can mingle, get a drink, or use the facilities. Normally I would suggest you buy a copy of our feature Therese Gleason Carr’s chapbook Libation at our virtual vendor’s table, but unfortunately it is currently out of print . However please check out the front and back covers of Libation with a great review by Kwame Dawes there.

When we come back, Ron will be starting our virtual open mic.

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RON: Welcome back, folks! I am proud to announce, that besides Paul and myself, we have fourteen poets on tonight’s virtual open mic, which makes this one of our biggest open mics yet (virtual or otherwise)! As I do in all the Poetorium shows, I will open the mic with a classic poem from the Ron Whittle collection of Poetry. So lets hear it for the one and only me, hahahaha…

Love and disappointment and everything in between

Fear no longer stabs me
like it used to.
My expiration date is nearing
and in their hands are eulogies
to the person, they thought
they knew but never did
Few ever took that time
to know the real me.
The road ahead of me is mine
and mine alone
and the time to make that walk
is ticking ever closer.
There was a time
when you used to wear my name
with a smile on your face.
Don’t cry for me now,
it’s much too late
and eulogies are for those
the living
that never took the time
to find the real me.
Like when I took the blues
and tried to paint a rainbow
with them.

— Ron Whittle

First up is a poet who made her debut at the Poetorium last month.
Please welcome Joan Erickson…

JOAN:

Anchovies
(Before Social Distancing)

As I turn my shopping cart
up the almost empty aisle
I see a man – sixtyish –
studying the label on
a small jar.
He sees me and comes over –
talking as he does – his accent
strong. “Anchovies,” he says,
pointing to what they look like –
‘stringy things.’ He’s looking for salt
and hands jar to me. I try to read
small print but don’t see the word salt.
He goes and gets another kind –
in a can – hands it to me – tells me
his wife is making pizza – she wants
the salt. I see the word salt on can
and show him, “there’s some salt.”
He’s happy – “She’s going to break
these up in little pieces on top of her
homemade pizza.”
He smiles – continues talking as he
walks away and I realize his
accent is Italian.
Today I helped a man find some salt –
making him a happy man.
And as I finish my shopping
feel lighter, happier myself.

—Joan Erickson ( 2/12/20)

RON: Now please welcome back to the virtual podium, Gail Schuyler…

GAIL:

Waiting at the Train Station All Day Long!

I need a ride to the train station after a visit with my friend.
She is conflicted because bad weather’s predicted —
ice, snow, blizzard? We don’t really know.
But precipitation has started and it’s time to go!
Except it’s only rain, and my train doesn’t leave for three hours.
I know the weather is changeable and makes her leery,
and the prospect of a three-hour wait makes me weary.
I have a book to read and can people watch as well.
Wait! I almost yell when they tell me
The train is Running Late! Running Late! Running Late!
When the train finally arrives, I question the crew.
Is this right train? Nobody knew!
Traveling on a train is confusing at best and I am getting stressed!
I’m bewildered and befuddled. Which track? Which car do I use?
Sleeper, Diner, Quiet, Coach? I am nervous and naïve.
I don’t even know which door will open when it’s time to leave.
When I arrive at the last station, I expect a two-hour wait.
And when it’s down to 45 minutes, a text tells me . . .
The train is Running Late! Running Late! Running Late!
When I finally arrive at home, I’m really beat!
Will I ever take the train again? Prospects are slim
since my experience of riding the train was pretty grim!

—Gail Schuyler

RON: Next up is a poet who is making first appearance in our open mic tonight… please give a big hand to Josiah Burden!

JOSIAH:

When It’s Love

It’s an ache in the gut,
When it’s three in the morn,
It’s the sparkle of life,
It’s familiar but foreign,
It’s fun, it is light,
It’s a decadent rush.
It’s the hype, it’s the truth,
It’s a straight, it’s a flush.
It is lust, it’s desire,
It is strange and gets stranger
It is passion, it’s adventure,
It’s a little bit of danger,
It’s the horse in the stable,
It’s a gift from above,
It’s fleeting but patient,
When it’s love.

It’s blue. It’s red.
It’s jealous. It’s greedy,
It’s hot. It’s cold.
It’s selfish. It’s needy.
It’s a lunch in the grass
When the sun is up high
It’s the moon. It’s the sun.
It’s the stars in the sky.
It’s a gentle caress,
A hard fuck on the rug,
It’s a runaway train.
It’s the worst kind of drug.
It is life. It is death.
It is soft. It is tough.
The world goes away,
When it’s love.

It’s the gentlest breeze,
On a warm summer night.
It is war. It is win.
It’s a loss. It’s a fight.
It’s a spring in your step,
It’s the beat of your heart,
It’s two people alone,
It is true. It is not.
It’s mine. It’s yours.
It’s ours alone,
It’s the chirp of the text.
It’s the ring of the phone.
It is all that you need.
It’s a hawk. It’s a dove.
There is nothing at all
You can do
When it’s love.

—Josiah Burden

RON: Next is a loyal regular at the Poetorium, Dwayne Szlosek!

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Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE: Hi everyone, my name is Dwayne, and I am thinking about spring. It is here.…yaaaay!!! So I thought I would write about a dragonfly, a mosquito, and a frog…

 The Path of an Insect

The dragonfly flies very high.
The mosquito tries to hide from the dragonfly
That glides along the cushion of air,
Because he doesn’t want to be eaten by the dragonfly.
But only if the mosquito had seen the wipe, the Indiana Jones snap,
From the itty bitty frog down by the log.
O farewell to the mosquito.
Hip hip hooray to the frog, who triumphs over the mosquito.
Belly full.
It is night time.
To a good rest, for tomorrow,
For something new.
Maybe the dragonfly will be on the menu.
All to follow, the mosquito…

—Dwayne Szlosek (© 5 /14/ 2020)

Thank you to all,  and be safe!

RON: Our next poet is another first-timer at the Poetorium. Amy Nawrocki is the author of 6 poetry collections (most recently Mouthbrooders published in 2019 by Homebound Publications) as well as a memoir, The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory. She teaches English at the University of Bridgeport, and Iives in Hamden, CT with her husband and her two cats. Please welcome Amy to the Virtual Poetorium…

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Amy Nawrocki

AMY:  I wrote this poem a few years ago in that far-away, pre-COVID world, but I’ve been reminded of its themes and images often in recent weeks.

HOME HEALTH CARE

Rusted and achy, the hinge breaks clean off,
pneumatic no more. The newly detached storm door
shows symptoms of choreiform gait, though
spastic hemiplegia isn’t out of the question
if the wind were to tunnel just right
and send concussed glass into the post light
which needs a new bulb. Recommendation:
stay shut, external repairs are easy, another trip
to emergency hardware. Internal medicine

declares more pressing matters, low energy
washing machines are prone to
violent shakes, hypertension.
Porcelain fractures on impact; self-
diagnosed varicose veins purple into
the clean white of an undermounted sink.
Hopelessly persistent glass tumblers
struggle with terminal velocity, half full
with stomach-soothing ginger ale
or vodka-soaked ice cubes. Either way

someone has to sweep it up. Faucets,
of course, suffer from acute melancholia
but you knew that, washing off the blood,
standing there with your ungloved hands,
your blue dustpan, your hypochondria and
portable x-ray machines.

—Amy Nawrocki (from Mouthbrooders)

RON: Our next poet has already graced the stage of the Poetorium a few times previously including our virtual mic last month – Barbera Roberts!

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Barbera Roberts Standing Peace Vigil With Her Friend Scott Schaffer-Duffy

PAUL: I just want to point out that the forces of synchronicity are apparently in full force tonight. Barbera has informed me that she will be presenting a poem that she wrote a while ago (likely even before we started the Poetorium) but just happens to coincidentally share the exact same theme of this month’s group poem…

BARBERA: I read this once in public…at John Henry’s open mike…maybe 1-2 years go…

What I Miss…

What I miss…Whip-o-wills and fireflies
Night skies with stars
Bluebirds and pheasants and unsprayed apples
Dirt roads with grasses down the middle.

Dogs that ran free and cats that had kittens.
Steam engines driven by coal.
And neighbors who opened unlocked doors
With calls “Its me.”

Cars with engines men could fix.
And telephones with four digit numbers
Furnaces with wooden coal chutes
And mother’s garden with lilies and bees.

Children’s pipes made from chestnuts
Sand lot baseball games
Roller-skates clipped to your shoes.
With grasses blowing in the wind.

Stately elms along the roads
Large apple orchards down the street.
Rolling hills and swamps with frogs
Child made forts amongst the pines.

Grandfathers rocking crying babies
And grandmothers sitting darning socks
Fathers reading Treasure Island
Waiting for the moon to rise.

Morning sponge baths
Before the open oven door.
Crickets chirping in the house,
While grasshoppers sing in the fields.

Dog toothed violets grow
Among rocks laced with mica
And women can vegetables
As close friends come over to play bridge.

Arthur Godfrey on the radio
Ice cream on Sundays
Wet mittens sizzling on the heater grate
Sliding sleds on public snow covered roads

These are what I miss.

—Barbera H. Roberts

RON: Now please welcome to the virtual microphone, a poet who this year has become a favourite at the Poetorium, Christine Burlingame…

CHRISTINE:

Our New Normal

My internal compass
lost true North
long before
I began the journey
into your
uncharted terrain.
Long before life
as we knew it
to be,
forever changed.
Falling into you
during a
pandemic was
never planned.
Our New Normal
isn’t normal at all.
Lately, we
act foolish,
take car rides
just to burn
tanks of gas,
tangle up extremities
during evening rendezvous
and start television shows
we’ll never actually finish.
We drink shared bottles
of cheap red wine
in the restaurant of
my tiny apartment.
We dream of
having
a date night
where we can
hold menus.
Promise to watch
a movie in a theater
like adults.
-We would ‘ve then
if we knew
this now.
Or would we?
We smile behind
masked faces.
I miss your
imperfect teeth
articulating words, and
your hot breath
whispering
into my ear.
It is now
strange to
be enamored
by only
what which
is visible.
-those lines
around
your soft
brown eyes
encourage me
to trust-
when everything
else
once known
to be safe,
was a lie.
We make plans
to visit places
and see the world
together.
We imagine
meeting others with
exposed cheeks
and lips
opened wide
in laughter.
All those
hands held and
bodies embraced
in love, and
in longing.
– will no longer fear
a new tomorrow.
Everything for us
in these
forbidden moments
is comfortably
years ahead
because the world
demands that we
stay in
and inadvertently nest.
We use our
nights to
build temporary
sanctuaries
in one another.
When we breach
the forbidden
barriers of
Quarantine
it is
simply because
nothing
can stop us
from wanting to
be a singular,
healed
heart.

—Christine Burlingame

RON: Next up is Ariel Potter who has participated in every Virtual Poetorium so far…

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Ariel Potter

ARIEL:

I Am the Madwoman

Not chasing butterflies
And capturing them in a net,
But crouching in the corner,
Head full of sharp things.

God is blessing someone else today.
Hopeless like an abandoned parking lot.
Sorrow is too wet.
I am the sun’s foil.

I am the opposite of ocean.
Beauty is aggression, peace is a hoax.
I am a secondary character to myself.
I am the body before it’s buried.

Satan’s face is a dead one,
Expressionless as a bank teller.
Insane can be as quiet
As a wrinkled paper bag.

—Ariel Potter

RON: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to welcome back to the Virtual Poetorium one of Latvia’s finest poets, Inga Gaile,…

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Visiting Latvian Poet Inga Gaile With Poetorium Host Ron Whittle (Photo Courtesy of Sarma Muiznieks Liepins)

A Prayer

let ruin end here

let him find honey
where there was once slaughter

let him enter the lion’s cage
& find a field of lilacs

let this be the healing
& if not    let it be

—Inga Gaile

RON: We are so happy to have back Howard Kogan, a wonderful poet we haven’t seen at the Poetorium since last year. Howard was originally scheduled to be our featured poet at the Poetorium at Starlite in Southbridge last October, but had to cancel due to an injury. So please welcome the always entertaining (and apparently fully recovered) Howard J. Kogan to our virtual podium…

HOWARD: Recent research has revealed that changes in our internal bacterial flora may effect our emotions and even the affection we feel for one another…

Love Too Depends   

Love too depends on bacteria for we’re colonized countries
disinterested as governors until there’s trouble at the gates,
as unaware of our own bodies as we are of our DNA’s future plans.
The problem may appear to be we’re no longer in love
or our love has evolved like a complex diagnosis
in a way neither Venus nor Valentino anticipated.

Or we find ourselves in love in a parallel universe
with someone who might already be our spouse,
for though they seem different, it’s in a very familiar way.
Or it may be that the 5-Day Z Pack effected
our affection as much as our intestines,
for love is both infectious and bacterial.

—Howard J. Kogan

RON: I think Paul may be right about the forces of synchronicity being in full force tonight. It just so happens next on the open mic is the poet, who so graciously filled in at the last minute for Howard as our featured poet last October. Please welcome Rob Racicot.…

ROB:

We Are of Electrons

I can never know for sure
where I truly reside,
at any instance of time.
My world is one of affect
revealing itself only when
change comes, and
then only by chance,
like crap die tumbling
off back-alley brick,
a probability to live
in two places at the same time.

Everything is of electrons,
only here by prospect,
our universal fabric
is not about the matter
but the connections,
like links in the warriors’
chainmail, a ringed network
of time, not a passage of it.

—Robert Racicot

RON: We are so happy now to present, in her very first appearance at the Poetorium, the Poet Laureate, of Bethel, Connecticut – Cortney Davis.

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Cortney Davis

CORTNEY: My poem, which appeared online at ourbreakroom.org and is also forthcoming in early June in my newest book, “I Hear Their Voices Singing: Poems New & Selected.”, is dedicated to the nurses and other caregivers who, during this pandemic, have to enter rooms in which a patient might be alone, very ill, or dying.  The nurse or caregiver might be covered head to toe in protective gear, and it may be that all this is taking place in an atmosphere of rushing and urgency.  This poem is a reflection, a reminder, that even in the midst of chaos, it’s essential to enter a patient’s room with all the senses alert, with every consideration for the humanity and the vulnerability of the patient lying in the bed.  As a nurse who has had a long career in healthcare, I’ve entered those rooms so many times.

Entering the Patient’s Room

Knock, then enter with quiet steps,
remembering that you carry with you news of another world.

Be attentive, noting
the placement of chairs, the presence
or absence of flowers, of cards tacked to the wall
as if to take upon themselves a measure of pain.
Look at the woman resting in bed,
seeing around her the light
emanating from her wounds; go directly
to the bedside, not afraid to take her hand
or simply sit beside.

Speak your name, or wait,
saying nothing. Remain steadfast,
while the hospital clock offers its silent hours.

Let her mind and her body be all that matters.
Let this time be sufficient to the task at hand.

―Cortney Davis (originally published on ourbrearoom.org)

RON: Now please welcome back in her second appearance at the Poetorium, Meg Smith, a poet, journalist, and dancer from Lowell, Massachusetts…

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Meg Smith

MEG: A lot of writers are surely expressing their mixed feelings during the quarantine and the coronavirus epidemic. This poem speaks only to my personal feelings, rather than any political themes. It is inspired the experience of going for walks at sunset, wearing a face covering. All around people are having parties, walking, masked or unmasked, and seemingly in a state of denial. Or wearing an emotional mask of their own.  Somewhat paradoxically, there are beautiful flowers blooming everywhere, giving the world its own covering.

The Rose Veil 

Night is unfolding, unraveling —
so put on your shield.
Somewhere near,
someone is laughing
like a stream
of petals — falling,
in scarlet, in
this night,
into morning.
There was not
always a time
for such coverlings,
not for laughing,
or mourning,
or sighing, in scarlet,
of night.
Now, is always night.

—Meg Smith

RON: Last but not least on our open mic, we have a special guest all the way from Nice, California, author of ” Persimmon: Poems and Recipes” and beloved host of the public radio show “Radio Jail”, Eugenie Steinman…

EUGENIE: I would like to present a poem I wrote while I was running along the Clear Lake lakeside. It was after I had run about three miles when the scenery morphed into the cosmos which became apparent. I hope you like it.

Oh, before I begin, I think you may need to know that Mt. Konocti is a dormant volcano on Clear Lake in Northern California…

Time and Space

Running along the lake side
When the redbud blossoms
Where the mallards reside
When Konocti disappears from view
For another curve or two
When the sun is barely over the eastern hill
Where I can see the blackbird’s red wing quill
When the purple iris and the wild flower match
When new duck eggs are about to hatch
Where as I keep running I elongate the place
When summer comes closer as I continue to race.
The earth and I run through space
And time is the measurement of the pace.

— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes*)

*Originally published in the Lake County Record-Bee

RON: Okay, before I close out the show, let’s get back to the podium, my co-host and partner in poetic crime Paul Szlosek…

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Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Thank you, Ron! Tonight I would like to share with you a poem I wrote that was published twenty years ago in the  poetry journal Sahara.

Karmic Krisis

Suddenly, amidst the one millionth query
on the nature of existence,
the Dalai Lama sours upon the direction
his life has taken in his last twenty lifetimes.
When every waking thought must be an epiphany,
the pressure to be profound becomes too much
and even the meaning of Life is monotonous
when that is all you think about.

It’s time, he decides, to take a break,
to change careers (he can always go back
to being a holy man in his next incarnation).
So he leases out his space on the mountain top
to the Church of Scientology and enrolls
in the Acme Institute of Public Accounting,
dreaming of one day opening his own CPA firm
in downtown Katmandu.

Soon he finds that missing sense of fulfillment,
balancing ledgers, watching the figures tango
and lambada across computer screens,
learning, perhaps, a little corruption
can be good for the soul.
The numbers may never lie,
but a clever accountant always knows
how to keep two sets of books.

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Sahara)

Before I hand the microphone back over to Ron to close out the show, I just want to thank everyone that participated in tonight’s program including Therese, Gail, and everyone in the virtual open reading as well as the talented contributors to our group poem. You’ve been really incredible! As I said before and will keep saying, without all you wonderful folks, there would be no Poetorium! And of course, that applies double to you, Ron…

RON: Thanks, Paul!

Closing out is always the hardest part of the show.  I never quite know how to get the right words out of my mouth.  I only know Paul and I will miss you guys until we meet again in another month.  Hopefully, we will be able to meet in person next month.  Which brings me to my closeout poem that’s all about the story of life.

The story of life

This is true and this is how the story goes:

Fall sounds like
the evening chill
gale winds that blow
the death of summer
the dying leaves that fall
the crunching leaves under our feet

Winter sounds like
cold
ice
Snow and wind
and silence as the snowflakes fall

Spring sounds like
the awakening
life stirring
green
budding
nest building and a time for love

Summer sounds like
Blooming
green grass
children playing
leaves rustling
laughter in the summer sun

And here is what I know
for certain

Nothing lasts forever
and all we shall have in this life
is whatever is between

hello and goodbye…

—Ron Whittle

Before I say my final words we need to thank Paul for all his hard work in producing this show. Thank you Paul for all you do to keep the Poetorium going.

A special shout out to Anne Marie for the white chocolate chip cookies.

Thank you Demitri Kasperson for the use of the Starlite Lounge.

And for now, I’m only going to say hello, the other word can wait for another time and place.

Please be safe, we need you and love you guys (I’m waving).

Good night Mrs. Cowart where ever you are!

God Bless!

See you next time, hopefully in person!