Virtual Poetorium (May 31, 2022)

THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM

May 31, 2022

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Hey there, Everybody! Hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day weekend?

I want to welcome you all to our third-year anniversary edition of the Poetorium! Mmmmmm… I can tell that some of you seem a bit confused right now. I can bet that you’re probably thinking “Hold your horses, Paul, didn’t you guys just have a second-anniversary edition this last March?” Well, yes, we did, but we were then celebrating the two year anniversary of the Virtual Poetorium, while this month will be three years since we had the debut of the very first live Poetorium show at the Starlite Bar & Gallery in Southbridge, Massachusetts on May 28th, 2019. And I am so pleased to be able to share some fabulous news with you tonight. We’ll be returning to the live shows at the newly reopened Starlite starting Thursday, June 30th, 2022 with a Virtual Poetorium favorite, the fabulous Meg Smith, traveling all the way from Lowell to be our featured poet. Mark your calendars, folks, because you certainly won’t want to miss it!

And speaking of fabulous features, we definitely have one for you tonight! I am so pleased to announce that the very talented novelist and poet Kevin King has come down from the Granite State to share some poetry with us this evening from his brand new book Ursprache. I will be inviting Kevin up to the stage in just a few moments, but before I do, you folks with a good memory may recall that last month I officially opened the April edition of the Virtual Poetorium with a short poem appropriately entitled “April” by Sara Teasdale. Well, this night I am going to once again kick off the show with another poem written by Miss Teasdale, this time fittingly called “May Night”…

May Night

The spring is fresh and fearless
And every leaf is new,
The world is brimmed with moonlight,
The lilac brimmed with dew.

Here in the moving shadows
I catch my breath and sing–
My heart is fresh and fearless
And over-brimmed with spring.

—Sara Teasdale

And now on with the show! Since I’m sure many of you may not be familiar with tonight’s feature Kevin King, I’d like to let tell you a little more about Kevin before I call him to the stage for the customary Poetorium interview that will precede his feature…

Kevin King

Kevin King is the author of the novel‭ ‬All The Stars Came Out That Night,‭ ‬Dutton.‭ ‬His first poetry book,‭ ‬Ursprache,‭ ‬has just been published in April of‭ ‬2022.‭ ‬He is the recipient of a poetry fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and has published in numerous journals,‭ ‬including‭ ‬Ploughshares,‭ ‬Stand,‭ ‬Threepenny Review,‭ ‬etc.‭ ‬His CNF pieces,‭ “‬Back from Abroad” and‭ “‬Alquezar” were published in the‭ ‬Potomac Review‭ ‬and Word Riot,‭ ‬respectively.‭ ‬Ireland,‭ ‬a CNF piece in the February‭ ‬2022‭ ‬issue,‭ ‬was a finalist in‭ ‬Nowhere Magazine’s travel writing contest.

Please welcome to our virtual stage, Kevin King!

PAUL: Well, Kevin, please have a seat. Thank you so much for coming down here tonight to be with us! Before we learn about Kevin King the poet and the writer, I think our audience might like to know a bit more about Kevin King the person. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

KEVIN: I live in Brentwood, NH, which is close to Exeter. I grew up in Orange and Woodbridge, CT, near New Haven.

PAUL: How and when were you first exposed to poetry?

KEVIN: My first memory of poetry was a poem in my mother’s Redbook Magazine, about a confrontation between Abdul Bulbu Amir and Ivan Skavinsky Skivar. Who could read those names and not be beguiled by the sound? It’s a version of Mathew Arnold’s Sorhab and Rustum.

PAUL: Who or what first inspired you to start writing poetry yourself?

KEVIN: Love of words, their sound. And ingenuity in manipulating them. Hence the early influence of E.E. Cummings.

PAUL: Who are some of your favorite poets and writers and can you tell us why you like them?

KEVIN: This could take more than a page. But to be brief: Stephen Dunn, Carl Dennis, Mark Doty, Tony Hoagland, Billy Collins, Troy Jollimore. Jollimore is a philosopher, and philosophy is an avocation of mine. Hoagland and Collins use humor brilliantly. Dennis, Dunn, and Doty are profound, sagacious, and have a great sense of irony.

PAUL: What do you feel is your primary motivation for writing?

KEVIN: Money . . . a joke obviously. Communicating what’s on my mind in an interesting manner.

PAUL: Could you speak about your first book of poetry Ursprache, that was just been published in April? Is this a collection of previously written poems or did you write poems specifically for the book (or a bit of both)? Is there a unifying theme to the poetry within, and can you explain the meaning and significance of the title Ursprache?

KEVIN: It is mostly previously written poems. There is not one unifying theme, though some editors like that for reasons I don’t understand. The book is divided into three sections: the first concerns family life, the second is philosophy, and the last concerns death, containing a number of ‘Obits.’ Ur- refers to the first, as in Ur-Hamlet, what Shakespeare’s Hamlet was drawn from. ‘Sprache’ is German for ‘speak.’ So the title is about proto-language.

PAUL: I see from your bio, that besides being a poet, you are also a novelist. Can you tell us something about your novel All The Stars Came Out That Night, and what inspired you to write it?

KEVIN: As a kid, I loved baseball and remembered my father’s stories about the old-timers: Three-Finger Brown, Iron Man McGinty, et al. And the story of how baseball became integrated interested me, especially how good players in the Negro Leagues were.

PAUL: How is the process of writing a novel different than writing poetry? Do you find one easier than the other?

KEVIN: It’s nice to have more than one genre to go to. If you are out of novel ideas, you can concentrate on poetry. They are equally hard, or easy, for me. Both demand a lot of revision. That is where the real work is done.

PAUL: Could you tell us something about your personal process for writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?

KEVIN: A phrase from someone else’s work resonates, or an idea from a book I am reading plants a seed, and that’s all it takes. From there it is a process of association.

PAUL: Are there certain subject matters and themes that you tend to write about?

KEVIN: With novels, baseball takes precedence. With poetry, it tends to involve the sections that Ursprache is divided into family, philosophy, and the end.

PAUL: If you had to choose just one word to describe all your writing in one word, what would that word be?

KEVIN: Usprache?. . . Why not ‘love’? Even when you are writing about death, unless you are Sylvia Plath, it tends to be because you love life and deplore leaving it.

PAUL: Do you have a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?

KEVIN: I wish I did. Wish I were more disciplined like guys I know who get up at 6 to write before going to work.

PAUL: What would consider to be your ideal writing environment?

KEVIN: Really, it doesn’t matter. My ex was amazed at how I could drown out the cacophony of kids and rellies at Thanksgiving or Christmas and revise as if they weren’t there.

PAUL: Could you tell us about any poetry or other writing projects you are currently working on?

KEVIN: A novel about a fictional game between Ruth’s All Americans, who returned from a goodwill trip to Japan at the end of 1934, and an All-Star team of indigenous Americans who played in the Majors or in Canada (plus one Japanese player who at first is passed off as a Zuni.)

PAUL: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out writing poetry?

KEVIN: Read good people, like those I mentioned in a previous question.

PAUL: My final question of the evening is there any question that you would like to answer about your life, poetry, or anything else that I have failed to ask you during this interview so far? If so, please answer it for us…

KEVIN: What’s for dinner? . . . Or how about—you are Bill-Gates-rich and can invite anyone you want to a dinner party (offer one can’t refuse, what with 2003 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, etc.) Answer: Stephen Dunn (great, unpretentious guy,) Billy Crystal, Sarah Silverman, you, Carl Dennis, David Gray, my son Aidan, and now it is time for dinner; I’ll get back to you on the rest of the list.

PAUL: Wow! What an amazing interview! Thank you so much, Kevin! I’d definitely be honored to be a guest at that dinner party. Well, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Now, folks, please sit back and enjoy as Kevin King presents selected poems from his first full-length collection of poetry, Ursprache:

KEVIN:

Claude on My Mind

“all is lovely-all amiable-all is amenity and repose;
the calm sunshine of the heart”
—Constable, on Claude Lorrain

So I’m wondering
if we were all converted
or ordained to be landscape painters
of our own psychic interiors,
revealing them as exteriors,
consciousness torn like a shirt inside out,
what would we choose to hang
in our mental musée des beaux-arts?
How much porn would adorn those walls?
Pudenda hung as scalps?—as Claude did!
in Artist Studying from Nature—
castle towers topped with bushy sporran.

And what of my own one-man show?
The chef d’oeuvre no doubt entitled—
A Guernica of Narcissism.
Over here—A Garden of Hedonistic Delights.
And regard-moi ça—layer on layer
of obfuscation and denial
laid on so thick that
no blush strokes are visible,
you can’t tell the black from the blue,
can hardly understand me
when I say that those specks there, and here,
those thought-bubbles—
that’s art.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Salamander

Ceci n’est pas un poème

“A wife is like an umbrella. Sooner or later, one takes a cab.”
—Freud

The two words in Spanish that I repeatedly forget
are esconder and gorra: hide and hat.

And as if a second language were a dream
to the reality of my native English,

I feel a need to interpret my forgottens.
Given that I associate the two with the man

who thought his wife was a hat,
was I hiding mine? And if so, why?

Or was it that I’d forgotten to hide her?
Or where I had hidden her?

Was it in the heart? Or anywhere but?
If I were Oliver Sacks, I would have asked

the obvious—was she a bowler, a beret,
or sombrero? Stiff, floppy, or simply

compendious? On the back cover of Sacks’ book
is Magritte’s painting of a hat,

a celestial flotation device, skyhook,
unfathomable nest, hole

suspended in the blue, in the void,
while I’m seeing another Magritte,

the man on terra firma with an umbrella/parasol
as if expecting a deluge or protection

from so much light.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache)

Tongue and Groove

There was groove but no tongue
on the door’s last board, tattle
with no tale, yin with no yang,
gin with no fizz. The king’s horses
and doormen were called for naught.
For spite, they never showed up.
Consider the paradoxical Zen sound
of my floored door closing
or opening. Self-applause? Why not?
Its unhinged hinges the gleam
in the eye of some unmoved mover
or just a guy with a hammer.

It would be wrong to ascribe feelings
or political views of any kind
to the tongueless groove.
On the one hand, groove looks
for all the world a V for victory,
but on the other a vale to which we
typically, religiously, assign tears.
Best to step back, see the bigger
picture—tongue and groove
silently beseeched by door.
See the little bubble trapped into telling
the same tale—level or not,
as if the earth itself were
tongueless, grooveless flatness.
See the door coerced into the dyad of open or closed,
as if from a vale one could never flash a V.

Pity the groove, avatar of negative space,
exposure, and vacancy, taken for a gutter.
But if the groove lies,
insists it doesn’t miss its tongue,
remind it of the time you had
one hand on your dick and the other
pressing down the top bands
of your boxers and sweat pants
when the mosquito landed—which
hand to let go?—that Zen thing again,
at which time you wished yourself
the tongue of a lizard.

Verily, the tongue never acknowledged
or disputed the possibility
that one day it just up and left
the groove holding the door.
You would do no wrong to suspect
the tongue of sweet-talking its way out,
cavorting with hinges. But pity the tongue, too,
unsucklable nipple confined to two dimensions
coming back to groove, flat hat in hand,
so long steeped in love and marriage,
horse and carriage, hinge and sign—items
that pray together stay together, after all,
what the tongue was good for or at, and
without whom what would a groove speak in?

—Kevin King (from Ursprache)

He Said, She Said

She said,

not at the outset but somewhere
deep into the conversation that reminded him
of their scooping out the fibrous, tangled guts
of a pumpkin to create the shiny,
well-appointed, circular chamber
of a Jack awaiting illumination,

that he was a man who was possessive of nothing,
not even possessions, leaving him on the brink
of feeling flattered when she continued,
“But isn’t ‘wife’ by definition a sort of possession?”
Which he thought was perhaps tangential,
but then again he might be missing the point,
and he replied that ‘To have—conjoined with to hold—’
was a sexual reference, and just what, despite
popular opinion, did ‘having a woman’
have to do with possession per se?
She confessed that she didn’t have an answer
and placed a short, squat, unpriapic candle
inside the pumpkin and lit it, transforming Jack
into a lantern with a gnomic smile
that in the weeks to come would sag
into a sadness it could not avoid possessing
but somehow seemed as content with
as the man was with contemplating the pie
the pumpkin could be transformed to if only
he could possess the desire.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache)

The Very Darkness

The hallway light, I point out somewhat
truculently, superfluously, is out.
Which somehow signals my three-year old son
to pick up his two shoes—“I’m putting them,”
he says, “in the very darkness.”
I could imagine him saying “the very dark,”
but where did the -ness come from?
What part of the cranial disk has already been
encoded with suffixes?
I’m thinking of adjectives lining up for their -ness,
like knights being dubbed,
or mittens fastened to a coat sleeve,
while common nouns stir in discontent,
proper nouns dally only with the hyphenated,
and verbs vie to take them for a stroll
on that old, yellow, large-lined paper.
Then the boy who would be poet turns tyrant,
corrects my irregular plural,
tells me where to put my own foots,
takes me out of my noncountable
discontentedness.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Threepenny Review

TKO, ICU

“Could the answer be that the more elemental we become
in sport and art, the closer to the spiritual we get?”
—Gene Tunney

The day before my son was born I packed
my duct-taped gloves to spar for the last time
and discovered among my gear his hat.

It was the size of a large fist.
And so I put it on mine.
Cosied it up. And saw stars.

Something about the diminutive cotton cap
demanded delicacy and care beyond
the imagination of a gauze-wrapped gloved fist.

Twelve hours later at the ICU, a head start into the elemental—
electrodes constellating our son’s skull and chest
connect to the intensive-care version

of an electronic round-bell that periodically
misreads his relaxation as not respiring, and misfires,
jolting the nurse from the far corner to turn it off.

This goes on longer than Sayers-Heenan,
and after midnight we are sent to our room,
where my wife and I watch Bridget Riley,

a bantam-weight working on a Ph.D.,
on ESPN. My wife asks why it is important
to finish each punch with a twist

and I give her the catechistic doctrine that the twist
may open a cut on bone, that a punch without
the final twist is like the “Our Father” without

the Protestant addendum about the power and the glory.
Eventually, the question diffuses in November drizzle.
Bridget Riley rises from the canvas after an early knockdown

and hooks her opponent into oblivion,
my wife already asleep
as the early morning decants.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Stand

Ficción

after Jorge Luis Borges

Midnight, I’m staring at books
on offertory shelves.
Tentatively, I vow to take one down
every night and turn its familiar pages,
close, tuck it in. And so
the books are like Toy Story,
old friends each with its
one-night stand. They read
to me.
It’s a love story,
of course.
It’s fiction,
of course.
My father never read to me.
The only books in the house
were dust-covered Huxley, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.
But there he is in his threadbare armchair
with a cigarette, a shot, cauldron of steaming
schmaltz. Oh, yes, schmaltz.
Do you know what schmaltz is?
—chicken fat
levitating from a pot of stock or soup,
filling the cavern of my mouth, my nostrils.
Do you know what schmaltz is?
—presence.
And in the morning when I awake
from the armchair with a book
sliding off my lap
and rub my tongue across my soft palate
thinking of Woody
there is nothing there. But there
was, I swear.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Salmagundi

‘Kha-Sté Na-Baw-Shid’

“Don’t be tired, Mr. King.”
It came from all corners of the box
of a room after I refused to join the cluster-fuck
of Mr. Gnademy when the lights went out

in the classroom inside the hangar when a cat fell
into the generator of the intelligence coordinating
facility of the Shah’s Imperial Iranian Air Force.

And when, an hour later, the lights came back on
and I was teaching the ‘air-ladies’,
I admonished Ms. Nadimy for copping a feel

of Ms. Parvaneh Hossein-Zadeh’s lovely breast,
and because they understood that the rebuke
was a veiled expression of jealousy, they told me

not to be tired and laughed like hell
because my chastisement: “Kuchikoo, Ms. Nadimy?”
in Farsi meant ‘Little mountain,’ which everybody

understood as a metaphor for the gorgeous
breast of Ms. Parvaneh Hossein-Zadeh,
whose given name meant ‘butterfly.’

And I’m thinking, at this outdoor table at Lil’s café,
that if I were a butterfly, this would be the poem
I would debut in, as a Monarch stretches its wings

to live up to its name and alights
on a flower—for good reason
these are the finest flowers in Kittery,

though the range of a Monarch is thousands
of miles, but it’s like Kierkegaard said—
stop and smell the roses, and I do,

but it doesn’t deter me from thinking
that Kierkegaard had too many vowels
in his name, then deciding instead that

there are too many consonants, and later that
maybe he had it just right, and I’m like Goldilox
and the three bagels, though Kierkegaard

had only doubles on Ks, Es, and As,
so it is a false comparison, ‘just my imagination,
runnin away with me,’ and the with there

implies control rather than companionship,
like me and my shadow, or wait—that actually
implies both, and sometimes I can’t wait

for night; feeling, like the Monarch,
that in a garden like this, who needs imagination?

Don’t be tired, Parvaneh.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache)

Kha-Sté Na-Baw-Shid for an Altekaka

How much of life is spent on maintenance—
the toilet’s float valve and the heart’s aortic,
the hex screw inside the Briggs & Stratton housing
that can be reached only by magic,
the vagina that begs the same genie fingers?

Tercets, dyads, quatrains have arguably vied
as my tools, though hammer with claw has
always been my favorite for its resemblance
to pig tails. There are bits in the metal box
accumulated since the days when I changed

my own oil, hauled my own ashes, did my own
timing, even the two-variety; here’s
a piece of metal stock I cannot fathom
the employ it was put to yet lingers
on the fringes of memory like a dream

I could never interpret; here’s
a plug that sparked infallibly
thousands of times in a dark cylinder
and ignited like a passion unseen.
Yet the 300-year-old house is still standing

on a metaphor and grappling with its
double-entendre ‘still.’
Its roof has not collapsed under the weight
of unraked snow and dreams that,
freighted with the four heavy syllables of matrimony,

refused to ascend any higher than
a wing-tipped shingle while
roofers of various ethnicity debate
the transitive or intransitive interpretation
of the inchoate proposition that

I have maintained.
And the perpetual, perennial,
choke—Have I?

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Filling Station

Metaphors: His Master’s Voice

In 1977 Johnny B. Goode was sent into space with the Voyager mission

I learned last night that the universe
is flat and expanding infinitely,
and that made sense—the universe as a wheel.
And since there are parallel universes,
when they collide, and they do—as gas clouds prove—
are they not then like the chariots of the gods?
The Romans and Greeks had it right all along?
Are we not metaphors of ourselves,
our better selves—we hope?
When Linda sings, “heart like a wheel,”
we’re not talking broken spokes or flat tires,
but steely rims. You go on your nerve,
it is said. Roll along, feel every pebbled bump.
And are we not then right in insisting
that in beauty there lies truth, so that
when Nat sings, “Smoke gets in your eyes,”
isn’t that cloud of gas two universes colliding,
you and me, babe? While in some other
parallel universe it must be true
that the wheels come off.
If the ancients, who believed in music of the spheres,
could hear His Master’s Voice for what it is—
space noise—couldn’t they imagine in some
infinite parallel universe, noise condensing
from a cloud into notes, to, at least, Chuck Berry?

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Stand

The Library of Alexandria

When they ask why I burned down
the Library of Alexandria,
tell them Nietzsche made me do it.
When they ask why I burned down
the Library of Alexandria,
ask them who made fire one of the four elements
of everything. And remind them that Aristotle
(“the Brain”) said that lifting the skirts of truth
was playing with fire.
Remind them that I was in love
with words like ‘pyromaniac’
at an impressionable age.
Remind them that I was not the only one
to say “Burn, baby, burn.”
Remind them why Moses didn’t use papyrus.
Remind them of the philosophy
of the third little piggy.
Tell them it was a mistake—
not the burning but the Library—
its temporary triumph of knowledge.
Tell them that, as Pascal said, the heart
has its reasons. Tell them that, among them,
fire says phooey to anything consensual.
Tell them that absent the burning
they would not be reading this poem.
Tell them it was fire’s coming out party.
Tell them they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Tell them Heraclitus said so.

—Kevin King (from Ursprache*)

*originally published in Spillway

PAUL: Bravo! Bravo! That was just incredible, Kevin! Folks, let’s show our appreciation for such an amazing feature by putting our hands together, and giving a rousing round of applause for Kevin King!

We’ll be taking a short intermission in a few minutes before we come back with our virtual open mic, but now it’s once again time to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month, the group poem is titled “May Is the Month”. In order to participate, people were asked to send us one to nine lines starting either with the phrase “May is the month of…”, “May is the month for…”, or “May is the month to…”. All contributions we received were then compiled into the May 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem. I’m not exactly sure why, but for some reason, the response this month was tremendous with the number of contributions being probably the most we ever had, and making this perhaps our longest group poem yet. I want to thank Karen Durlach, Ariel Potter, Tom Ewart, Robert Eugene Perry, Howard J Kogan, Selma Martin, Angela (aka Poetisatinta), and the slew of others who wish to remain anonymous for contributing and making the following poem possible:

May Is the Month…

May is the month,
Most pleasant passage
Spring coolness bridged
To Summer’s swelter
Offering a brief glimpse
Of a temperate paradise.

May is the month
To take nature by the hand
Dancing into silent space
Wearing blossom as a gown
And hawthorn
As your
Crown.

May is the month
Of our mothers and May flowers,
Of forsythia and bloodroot,
Violets and sentimentality,
Both genuine and commercial.

May is the month
To tend the garden,
Pull the tools from the shed,
Pinch the weeds from the ground,
Watch your arteries as they harden,
Probe for parasites that are ahead
Of time, boring into the soiled bed
Of your body, leaving you to cast around
For straws that won’t leave you dead.

May is the month
I mourn my mother,
Alive but estranged,
Close in miles
But faraway in heart.

May is the month
Of war on Ukraine
And here at home the war
On the last seventy years
Of progress in democracy.
It’s a May that makes me mad.

May is the month
The air conditioner goes in
And we are not yet
Sick of the heat.

May is the month
The cat escapes onto the air conditioner
And balances on the box outside the window
Until tempted back inside with a bowl of cool milk.

May is the month
My beloved and I sip
Lime rickeys, listening
To a creepy podcast
While the box fan spins.

May is the month
You begin to sweat at the bus stop
(Masks suggested but not required)
As people board the WRTA
Bound for downtown.

May is the month
Sweaters go ignored
At the Goodwill, and
Thrifters sort through
Secondhand sunglasses and visors,
Shorts and sun hats.

May is the month
Of come what may,
Swan song for Spring,
Harbinger of Summer.

May is the month
Of maybes, but a maybe that will be:
There be rain, there be sun
There be color, there be breeze.
There be hellos, there be smiles
There be you, and there be me.
There be less worry, there be more love
There be fecundity, there be more hope.

May is the month
Of “May Be”:
May you be safe
May you be healthy
May you be happy
May you be blessed
May you find peace
May you find courage
May you find joy
In May, may you Be.

May is the month
Of may we, oh! may we unfurl our treetop leaves to bask in the sun?
May we, oh! may we thrust our tender green tips out through warmed soil?
May we, oh! may we blossom brightly and smile,
Welcome widely to dragonflies, butterflies, wasps, and bees?
Yes, oh yes!
May is the month of YES.

—The May 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem

Well, folks, that concludes the first half of tonight’s Virtual Poetorium. We are going to take a brief intermission so you can get a drink, use the facilities, take a moment to reflect on all the fantastic poetry you have heard so far, or perhaps even purchase a copy of either our featured poet Kevin King’s novel All The Stars Came Out That Night or collection of poetry Ursprache at our virtual vendor’s table (you’ll be so happy that you did). When we come back, I will be starting our virtual open mic.

************************************************************

INTERMISSION BEGINS

************************************************************

Click Here to Purchase All the Stars Came Out That Night by Kevin King

Click Here to Purchase Ursprache by Kevin King

************************************************************

INTERMISSION ENDS

************************************************************

PAUL: Welcome back, everybody! Please find a seat…

Okay, I am going to kick off tonight’s open mic with another poem about May, this time one by the Welsh poet William Henry Davies…

In May

Yes, I will spend the livelong day
With Nature in this month of May;
And sit beneath the trees, and share
My bread with birds whose homes are there;
While cows lie down to eat, and sheep
Stand to their necks in grass so deep;
While birds do sing with all their might,
As though they felt the earth in flight.
This is the hour I dreamed of, when
I sat surrounded by poor men;
And thought of how the Arab sat
Alone at evening, gazing at
The stars that bubbled in clear skies;

And of young dreamers, when their eyes
Enjoyed methought a precious boon
In the adventures of the Moon
Whose light, behind the Clouds’ dark bars,
Searched for her stolen flocks of stars.
When I, hemmed in by wrecks of men,
Thought of some lonely cottage then
Full of sweet books; and miles of sea,
With passing ships, in front of me;
And having, on the other hand,
A flowery, green, bird-singing land.

—William Henry Davies

Our first poet on our open mic tonight will be our featured poet at our first live Poetorium reading in over two years at the starlite Bar & Art Gallery in Southbridge on Thursday, June 30th. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Meg Smith…

Meg Smith (Photo Courtesy of Meg Smith)

MEG: In a national and global tragedy, it’s hard to write a poem that reads like a poem rather than an angry letter to the New York Times. I’ve made an effort here (with the following poem), after the Robb School shooting in Texas. My heart hurts, and a poem must do its work…

The Lunar School

A child nested in the moon’s eye
is terrible to behold.
Each night and day, go more, and more.
They their playground from
the silty and airless night.
Gravity has forsaken them.
They disassemble,
evacuate, leaving the Earth only
crimson outlines on sidewalks,
in hallways lined with handprints
on green construction paper,
weeping in dark streaks.

—Meg Smith

St. Joseph the Worker Shrine is a Catholic church in Lowell overseen by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. One day I came out of the shrine’s gift shop, and there were two homeless men that I spoke to, a microcosm of our turbulent time…

Canticle of Lee Street

St. Joseph the Worker Shrine Lowell, Mass. May 5, 2022

There were two men caucusing on the sidewalk.
I gave them each a dollar and a prayer card.
One of them gave back the prayer card and said,
“Please keep it for me, I always get robbed.”
I kissed the prayer card, and put it in the
glove compartment of the car belonging to
my mother in-law, taken by COVID,
taken by January wind. In this way
we are all magnified. The clouds stir, and everyone
talks about quickening. A prayer is not long
in coming. It rushes toward us in a story’s breath.

—Meg Smith

PAUL: Thank you, Meg! Now please welcome our featured poet from last March, Tom Ewart aka tommywart…

Tom Ewart aka tommywart

TOM: The biggest event of my life at this point is going to the hospital and finding out I have cancer of the lymph nodes. Since then I’ve been writing poetry almost every day, most of it about this experience. Here’s a couple of poems that have been influenced by that experience, although they may not be totally related to it. But then, isn’t everything related?

Ysed 2 Know

Back before the clocks reset
from way past then to whatever now,
back when one and one
made two somehow, (but who knew
that ode in binary code?), we were told
the end is nigh. Maybe so,
by and bye, but not today,
just another one within the fray.
The path goes on; we met
it once, a worm in our way
through just the facts, ma’am,
to what hasn’t happened yet.
Wind the mainspring, set the alarm;
and hope the best is still to come.

—tommywart

Journal of a Plague Year

I started a book called “What Just Happened”,
about the unfolding coronavirus,
the one that just recently devoured us;
it’s odd to find what’s just behind
(our recent past), so fast before us:
our history, a scabbing wound, swollen, porous.

You’d think if we learned anything from this,
it would be better prep for the next time,
but time is money, and we have none,
so we’ll muddle through (as we always do).
Meanwhile, there’s a new war on;
it serves as a welcome distraction.

—tommywart

PAUL: Thank you so much, Tom! Now it’s my pleasure to introduce the poet who will be our featured poet in the August 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium. Originally from Worcester, but now residing in New York City, please give a big hand to James B. Nicola…

JAMES: Defying literary taboos… Politics… a topic to avoid?

[It’s time for]

It’s time for the poets to lead
That Fine Art be thought of as fine
For the Luddite and redneck to read
And the shadows of ages to shine

It’s time for the rich to divest
That the lame of the world learn to walk
That the loudest be also the best
And the animals relearn to talk

With horizons of science grown strange
And hatred a popular art
And though only the surfaces change
When what’s called for are changes of heart

Poetry’s what It’s about now
What with silence a recognized crime
And the poets are starting to shout now
It’s time God It’s time

—James B. Nicola (originally published in The Transnational)

The sky… a topic overdone?

Gray 2

Another reason I don’t mind the gray
so much is that experience has proved
gray is a mixture of the dark and light,

not the absence of either. This is true
with gray skies as it is with me and you.

And when the gray’s dissolved into a day,
the blue seems all the brighter, and I’m moved.
When, rather, it is stirred into a night,

the million trillion sequins in the skies
invite me, like the glimmer in your eyes.

—James B. Nicola (originally published in Deronda Review)

Now both of the previous topics at once in the following poem:

The Superior Race

The cumulus cloud, like the human race, appears
and wafts any time of the day, or month, or year,
and on every continent, but does not sink
into a Charleston church with words of faith
only to murder faithful citizens.

Before its vengeful bolt and deluge, it
combines with others of its ilk and darkens
so those below see, seek a safer site
inside somewhere. It does not distinguish
the sinner or the sanctimonious,
but sends its warning sign to all below.

When I’ve been drenched, it’s always been my choice,
to ease a heat unbearable, for instance.

Which race then is superior, that
of self-styled Christian Men, or that of Clouds
called Cumulus, which never named themselves?

It’s all I can do—not all, perhaps, but something—
to hear the news, feel scorched, shout, and linger,
hours, beneath the cloudburst, in the rain,
in search of kindred souls as soft as clouds
to join me, darken, and respond with thunder.

—James B. Nicola (originally published in IthacaLit)

PAUL: Thanks, James. Our next poet in our open mic was our feature last February. Please welcome Robert Eugene Perry…

Robert Eugene Perry & Mom After Dinner in the 90s

BOB: Tonight I’m presenting three poems about my mom in honor of Mother’s Day. We had a difficult relationship, but I like to think we were becoming friends in the end. She passed unexpectedly during an overnight stay in the hospital at age 65. My dad followed her 11 years later, almost to the day…

Mom
3/8/43 – 10/5/08

too young, alas
without warning you left us
no time for sad farewells
no soft caress, save the one
left as your body cooled
in the hospital bed.

so peaceful, you left us
an image of placidity, your visage
etched in golden pallor
there upon the sacred bier.

no long goodbyes, no anguished cries
you drifted off into that long good-night.

I imagined
His hand reaching down to take yours
leading you Home.

—Robert Eugene Perry

October Ghosts

In October my ghosts don’t wait for Hallows Eve
They come early to check out this year’s foliage
To talk of times that were, reinterpreting memories
As we walk through the forest, each moment
A grace I could not see while they were alive
They tell me nothing is ever wasted, ever lost
Pay attention to the way things come back to you
Spend yourself extravagantly, like these trees
Let everything go and you will discover
You have had everything you needed all along.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Orphan

sitting at the ocean
feeling like an orphan
emptiness engulfing
swallowed in the mourning

sunlight anathematic
clouds bring welcome cover
gulls join in the keening, a
symphonic minor number

heaviness descending
tide is rising higher
desire to surrender
swallow all this water

lay there at the bottom
blissfully forgetting
returning to the Mother
the Ocean’s never ending.

—Robert Eugene Perry

PAUL: Thank you, Bob! Next up is a long-time Poetorium regular, Howard J Kogan:

Howard J Kogan (Photo Courtesy of Dan Tappan)

HOWARD: This poem was published in my first book of poetry, Indian Summer. Bailey who was six when I was sixty-seven is now twenty-one, I’m older too…

Bailey at the Museum

We are at the Williams College Museum of Art,
the exhibition of Gerald Murphy’s seven paintings,
and a collection of memorabilia which announces
Gerald and Sara Murphy are the celebrated Murphy’s
friends of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cole Porter.

Bailey at six breezes past the paintings as if on roller skates.
She enters the next gallery and announces, “This is Egyptian!”
and has to be summoned back to look at the hieroglyphics.
When I try to explain how old these panels are,
it is beyond boring.

At sixty-seven I am the oldest element in her universe,
even my age is beyond her comprehending.
Her brow knits briefly then she is quickly off again.
She slows to look at a series of nudes, and smiling
conspiratorially whispers to her mother, my daughter,

“these are inappropriate for someone my age.”
I wander off to look at the Murphy memorabilia and discover
both sons died as children from tuberculosis and meningitis.
There are drawings the children made and I am looking
at them when Bailey finds me. These drawings, so like her own,

slow her pace. A brown horse, a white sailboat, neatly rendered
in Crayola crayon. I don’t tell her the Murphy’s sons are dead,
the Murphy’s, the Porter’s, the Egyptians, probably the painter
of every work she has skated past today, is dead.
I joked once about my dying and she cried.

She has an idea I can wait for her and we can marry.
She is my future but I am not hers. A few more spins around
the museum and she will round the corner a young woman,
do her thumbs up salute and skate out of our lives into her own.
And we will be her past, staring, mouths agape, full of wonder and loss.

—Howard J Kogan (from Indian Summer)

PAUL: Thank you, Howard. Now please welcome Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris, who I understand will be presenting two poems tonight, the first being inspired by one of my photos in this month’s batch of Virtual Poetorium poetry prompts…

GYPSIE:

Innocence Lost

The bombs continue to tear and rip and kill
blasts echo within my chest
as my heart beats no more

How can it beat as my precious ones
hearts beat no longer – stilled by unholiness
stopped by the greed of man

The greed of man has stripped me
of my life my very soul torn from
the very essence within me

They lay here forever entombed
in the ground of a country
they no longer belonged to

Innocence halted tiny minds assaulted
by that they could never understand
will never have the chance to understand

nor will I

—Gypsie~Ami Offenbacher-Ferris‭ (originally posted on her blog Gypsie’s Writings, Musings, Quotes & Poetry)

Photo by Paul Szlosek

Star-Shine

It rained down
from the black sky above
liquid fire turning all it touched
to ash or blackened rubble and grotesque stumps
The trees screamed in agony as roots disintegrated
away and the Earth shifted its course in response

Stone turned to white smoke
above us the ground shuddered
and trembled the walls of the ancient
cave heaved threatening to entomb us all within it
Noise of unbearable magnitude assaulted our ears
Great whirlwinds of burned debris crossed the ravaged land

Unknown days passed by in terrified silence
Untold atrocities and suffering slowly eased and stopped
Earth came to rest in a new space a new place orbit slowing
Darkness that had prevailed gave way to radiant arcs of star-shine
the bright tendrils of light and warmth surrounded the spinning orb
the end had come quickly and violently and a glowing new beginning begun

—Gypsie~Ami Offenbacher-Ferris‭ 

PAUL: Thank you, Gypsie! Now please welcome the host of the Poetry Extravaganza held at the Root & Press Cafe in Worcester on the last Wednesday of the month, Joe Fusco Jr….

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE:

Stand-Up in the Pew

There’s a short, stout, older woman in pajamas and a babushka
sitting in the pew behind us at church on Sunday.

When the Mass begins, she sings to the opening hymn,
quite beautifully, though the song she bellows is not
the same song the rest of us are attempting.

Monsignor Gentile chuckles as he walks up the aisle
to the altar and greets his audience.
“Interesting crowd,” he muses.

The babushka lady leaves her pew and walks the perimeter
of the church muttering “Sweet Jesus” over and over
until she returns to her seat right after the Gospel.

Monsignor refers to the gentle spirit
of Pope Francis in the opening of his homily.

“Kill the Pope,” the babushka lady shouts.

Monsignor smiles, then later refers
to the charitable spirit of Cardinal O’Malley.

“Kill the Pope!” the babushka lady reiterates.

“I guess the good Cardinal won’t be looking
for a promotion anytime soon,”
Monsignor counters then continues the Mass.

All eyes are now on the pew behind us through
the Offertory waiting for the next outburst.
Communion seems lackluster as the babushka lady
just picks her nose then flicks it toward the saints in the rafters.

Monsignor stands and begins the final blessing:
“The Mass is ended. Go in…”

“I’m out of here” the babushka lady interrupts
then leaves the building with her cart of recyclables and brick-a brac.

“We’re back at 11:30. Try the veal,”
Monsignor implores then proceeds down the aisle.

My wife and I applaud.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Thank you, Joe… Believe it or not, our next two poets have travelled all the way from overseas to be with us tonight. First please welcome Selma Martin, a poet and blogger residing in Japan…

SELMA:

Under the Sycamore Tree, A Cancer Rots
(#Conceit No.1)

Eating away like the putrid cancer that I am
holding tight the lies and secrets deep
fossilized I was until the fool turned me over
under day blight, he’s finding me not worth the keep

there’s always the hunger problem
I see itching inside his gnarly head
then there’s the changing & disinfecting 
imposed on me inside this narrow cell

“Crusty with drool.” The scandal digger raps insistently, 
“bloody like hell.” He spits and with sneers punctuates 
but he could be talking to the refrigerator
none of that registers or motivates

I’d rather be safe under the sycamore
where rent is none, and no one rules my ways
rotting, cramped, where sunlight never reaches
is the place where secrets are meant to stay

here he adjusts, preps, and twists me
pinching at lies that will seal his fate 
I see him chattering with his fingers
and adding more to amalgamate

reeks of betrayal, his soul a shadow
perfect environment for lies to propagate
he’s in it for gains, a short-lived illusion
amends and restitution will arrive too late

if day-light is painful and night stirs more his ire
of outrageous maneuvers– the jerk will go berserk
tonight is comeuppance for horning in on others’ murk
under trees unmarked let cancerous secrets expire

—Selma Martin

The Reels In The Wheels Spinning
(#Conceit No.2)

Revolving comes the carousel
of caches half-forgotten
forming footprints in the sand beach
from whence they had been hidden

cartwheeling come the psychedelic images
in an ever spinning reel
whirling, churning, spiraling
inviting me to climb and to feel

snowballing, the ripples of emotions
loop me along in an avalanche
whisk me more, then spit me out
like Quixote, the knight errant in a trance

at length, I surrender to feelings
long drained of pleasant discoveries
arrived, at last, the carousel stops
to deluges of sane memories
of orbiting the moon after taking the pill
— the reels in the wheels are my windmills 

—Selma Martin

PAUL: Thank you so much, Selma! And now it’s my pleasure to call up to the Virtual microphone, a talented engineer, blogger, and poet from India, Goutam Dutta…

GOUTAM:

The Butchering Metropolis

The patch of green
Was gasping for breath.
It stared vacantly,
Like the chicken at the butcher
Staring at death!
The concrete all around-
It’s myriad colours
Grotesque
like the devil’s face,
Seemed to have a vice like grip.
The pained,
cold, despondent,
sighing breath,
let out by the patch of green,
Hangs overhead,
shimmering,
as a veil of smog!

—Goutam Dutta

A Hill-Station in Distress

One step at a time.
Creeping up by inches,
Like ants,
They ascend.
The mute hill cannot but stand
Watching,
The growing number of houses,
March of civilisation;
Treading on its body.
First the belly and moving up
Towards its chest,
Aiming for its jugular,
In a lethal progress.

—Goutam Dutta

Thank you so much, Goutam. And now last but not least on the open mic, here is Dwayne Szlosek with another chapter in the saga of Nine Gun Billy…

Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE:

Nine Gun Billy 11(The Paul Gunn Story)

It is August 9th 1880.
I am Paul Gunn, cousin to Billy Gunn,
better known as Nine Gun Billy.

A tragic turn took place at the Gunn Ranch.
Billy was served papers from the Governor of Texas
ordering him to give up his land to the railroad.
They said the railroad would pay Billy 50 cents per acre,
and the train tracks would go right through Billy’s house
that he just finished building, right on the same spot
where his mother and father built the first house
(where it all began).

Billy took Governor Foundry to court.
The court, of course, sided with the Governor on the grounds
of eminent domain, claiming it was more vital that the townspeople
benefit from the railroad than Billy’s rights to his own property.
Billy didn’t see it that way, so he took matters into his own hands.

That night, Billy loaded up all nine pistols with ammo,
filling up one of his saddlebags with boxes of
36 and 45 caliber bullets, and the other with food and water.
before setting out to kill Governor Foundry.
It took eight hours in the dark to get to the Governor’s mansion.
Once there, Billy searched for a way in.

As the Governor slept soundly in his chambers,
Billy found a way in. The front door was unlocked,
so he walked in quietly and closed the door behind him,
not making a sound. Billy went up the stairs to the bedroom
of the Governor, walked over to his bed, and shot him six times,
killing him instantly. The staff members of the Governor’s mansion
heard the shots and rushed outside to take a look.
As he made his getaway, they got a hard good look at him
and realized it was Nine Gun Billy, who they recognized from court.
So they told the sheriff, and the manhunt was then on for Nine Gun Billy.

They never found Billy. He went on a mad spree killing folks,
robbing banks, and stealing cattle until one day everything just stopped.
No one ever saw Billy again.

Then one day, a letter came to me from my cousin Billy Gunn.
It was his confession penned in his own handwriting
(seems like he wrote everything down before he died).
I plan to read this confession note out loud at that highfalutin
establishment in town they call “the Poetorium” when it reopens
for everyone to hear…

Paul Gunn

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 5\10\2022)

PAUL: Thank you, Dwayne!

Well, that concludes tonight’s open mic. I want to thank everyone who read tonight including our feature Kevin King! Since most of the poetry we heard tonight (with a possible couple of exceptions) was pretty serious, I thought I’d close out the evening with something that I hope might lighten up the mood a bit (or maybe it won’t, I guess it’ll be up to you to decide if it does). This is a poem that I wrote that originally appeared in Concrete Wolf about 20 years ago…

Confessions of an Ex-Philosophy Major

Then there was the time when my search
for meaning went too far.
Superfluous winks and handshakes
metamorphosed into symbolic gestures.
Multitudes of connotations clung
to the underbelly of each stray word.
Pretense and portent continued to clog
my cerebral cortex. I’d interpret clumps
of witch grass, a half-eaten pomegranate
as omens of things never meant to be.
Revelations began exposing themselves
to me on park benches, gun-toting epiphanies
hijacked my daydreams. I was blinded
by flashes of inner illumination.
Answers abounded from every corner.
A battery of questions assaulted me
at each turn (in self-defense, I’d lop off
their question marks in an attempt to convert
them into statements unable to say anything).
Soon even silence swelled with significance
until I was forced to puncture its pomposity
with nonsensical babbling, shrieking
“Ooga Mooga Meeka!” and “Mah Ha Bone,
Mah Ha Bone, Mah Ha Bone!”.
But even that probably made sense
to somebody, somewhere…

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Concrete Wolf)

Well, good night everyone! I hope that you enjoyed tonight’s Virtual Poetorium, and we will see you all at our live show at the Starlite in Southbridge on June 30th, and then back here in the Virtual Poetorium in July when our featured poet is scheduled to be a Canadian poet, blogger, and humorist currently residing in Great Britain, John Ormsby