Virtual Poetorium (November 30, 2021)

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THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM

November, 30, 2021

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Good evening everyone!

As you probably realize my co-host Ron Whittle, who has been struggling with cancer for quite a while, cannot be with us here tonight since he had surgery at the VA hospital to remove his bladder on November 16th. The good news is that they believe they got all the cancer. Ron has been out of the hospital for about a week now, but it will take a long time for him to heal and recover so please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers for which he is so grateful.

I want to welcome you all to our very special Thanksgiving-themed edition of the Virtual Poetorium for November 30th, 2021. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have recovered sufficiently enough from your Turkey Day feasting to listen to some fantastic poetry tonight. I can see as I look out into the audience that this is probably smallest group we ever had at the Virtual Poetorium so I especially want to thank all here for joining us on this chilly late Autumn night when you could have been toasty and warm in your homes instead. Like our last Virtual Poetorium, there will once again be no featured poet, but instead, we’ll have a longer than normal open mic divided into two sections, but since we have only five people on the sign-up sheet, it will probably a shorter than average show. We are also once again lifting our usual one piece per person limit, so everyone can read up to three poems or stories.

Before we start the first section of the open mic, I will kick off the show with a Thanksgiving poem by one of the most prolific American poets of the late 19th century, Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

Thanksgiving

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox

And now please welcome to the stage, a long-time regular of the Virtual Poetorium, Meg Smith…

Meg Smith (Photo Courtesy of Meg Smith)

MEG: This last week was my vacation, and I did a fair amount of forest-walking. To me this time of November is always about oak leaves, and the ground cover they create. The photo above was taken by me at Cranberry Bog Reservation in Chelmsford, and was the inspiration for the following poem…

Natural Creatures

Cranberry Bog Reservation, Chelmsford, Mass.

Blame it on oak leaves, in their unfailing groundcover.
It’s up to us to crush them in the footsteps
of our sorrows, our memories of dark love.
After rain, the water runs high, dividing the world
into islands. I remain, in this
late autumn Avalon, with oak leaves
the surface of the night’s pool.

—Meg Smith

PAUL: Thank you, Meg! Now please welcome our good friend of the Poetorium, and the host of the monthly open poetry share at the Booklover’s Gourmet in Webster, Massachusetts, Bob Perry…

Robert Eugene Perry

BOB: Hello Poetorium!

These are two pieces from my first novel, Where the Journey Takes You, which seem entirely appropriate for Thanksgiving. Both pieces are sung by characters in the novel. I say both self-pity and gratitude are appropriate emotions, as each has arisen for me during this time of year.

Self-Pity Speaks

O the suffering you have borne
Unjust rejection, neglect and scorn
The weight of the world that you have worn
Upon your weary shoulders

How you’ve earned a little rest
Tried and tired, oft hard-pressed
No one knows just how depressed
You feel as you get older.

Come with me, and take your ease
Drink my tonic, you who grieve
I am someone who believes
In the victim they have made you

Lay your head now in my arms
I will keep you safe and warm
Shelter you from things that harm
And I will make you –

The envy of all that hate you.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Gratitude Answers

Through dark of night the Good will shine
And lead me towards the choicest vines
The decision mine, my will to yield
To the higher ground or the potter’s field

I will rejoice, though all seems lost
Give my all, not count the cost
No sacrifice can be called too grand
To choose the Good, to make a stand

O selfishness, my soul’s foul bane
Depart from me, ne’er be seen again!

—Robert Eugene Perry

This one also seems apt for Thanksgiving:

Finding and Abiding

When you are lost
I will show you the way Home.

Within yourself is where
I choose to dwell.

Yes, the kingdom of God
Is within you.

A whispered Word
Enwraps your soul –

Mystery unveiled
For those who wait.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Thanks, Bob! By the way, Bob will be the featured poet at the Artists Who Are Poets/ Poets Who Are Artists Winter Solstice Poetry Reading held at the Tidepool Bookstore  at 372 Chandler Street in Worcester on Tuesday, December 21 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm. Please try to attend if you can.

Wow! Believe it or not, we are almost at the end of the first part of tonight’s open. I think it would be fitting now to close it out with a poem of my own in the form of a prayer from a miniature chapbook (consisting of just 5 poems) I created from a single sheet of folded paper and entitled Four Prayers and a Curse over 25 years ago…

The Wall Street Prayer

Oh, Almighty Dollar,
The Lord of Loot,
Shallow be thy name.
Dow in Heaven,
Forgive us our Debts,
But put the squeeze on our Debtors.
Spare us Bears
But spur on the Bulls
For Greed is Good,
Greed is Great.

For all our earthly sins
May monetary gains compensate.

Amen.

—Paul Szlosek

We’ll be taking a brief intermission in a couple of minutes before we begin the equally condensed last half of our virtual open mic, but now it’s time once again for me to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month’s theme was fittingly “What We Are Thankful For” with people being asked to email us one to eight lines starting with the short phrase “We are thankful for…”. All contributions were then compiled into the following poem which I’m afraid is also fairly short this month since we only received submissions from just Bob Perry, Howard J Kogan, and Dwayne Szlosek besides myself:

What We Are Thankful For… (Part II)

We are thankful for the turkey feast..
We are thankful for my mom and dad and my sister too..
We are thankful for our freedom..
We are thankful for those who came before us and to keep the peace..
We are thankful for those who help others to have a turkey feast..
We are thankful for our heroes to keep us from harm..
We are thankful for God to bless everyone..
We are thankful for the seasons in the sun..

We are thankful our identity hasn’t been stolen,
that the delete button still works,
that Thanksgiving has not yet been completely commercialized,
that there remains much to be thankful for: love, peace, family, friends and poetry!

We are thankful for the tragedies avoided,
the storms weathered, and the silence between thunderclaps.

We are thankful for that which is given,
also what is withheld, for the unseen light
suggested behind the storm clouds, the warm
interior waiting beyond the season’s bitter breath, grateful
for each momentary experience that this ephemeral life affords.

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Well, that concludes the first part of the open mic. We will now be taking a short intermission. Last month, the photo exhibit displayed during the intermission seemed to be very popular, so we will be trying it again tonight. Unfortunately, since no one else answered our solicitation to submit photos, I am afraid we are stuck with a one-man show of some of my color photography (opposed to my black and white work which I exhibited last time), but please check it out, and we’ll see you back here in a couple minutes for the second part of the open mic.

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Intermission Begins

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The November 2021 Virtual Poetorium Photography Exhibit

Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek
Photo by Paul Szlosek

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Intermission Ends

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PAUL: Welcome back, everyone! Hope you enjoyed looking at my photos…

I am going to open the second part of tonight’s open mic with another prayer from my mini-chapbook Four Prayers and a Curse

Vegas Prayer

Lord, let my faith be as steadfast
as the atheist of unshakeable will,
who wagers all against the House
that there is no House
to win a jackpot
of nothing –
nil.

Amen.

—Paul Szlosek

First up in the latter half of tonight’s open mic is our featured poet from last November’s Virtual Poetorium, Howard Kogan…

Howard J Kogan (Photo courtesy of Dan Tappan)

HOWARD: No thanksgiving poem, but a poem about wild turkeys from the days
we had a rural home. I dearly love turkeys which makes me ambivalent about Thanksgiving this poem may help explain why…

Winter Visitors

You mentioned at breakfast, staring out the window,
they hadn’t been here all winter and wasn’t it a day
like this they came last year. Snow, crusted with
ice covering the ground for weeks.

Didn’t hummingbirds, with wrinkled pea brains
return each spring to where their feeder had hung?
You’d think a wild turkey, a brain as big as a pecan
could remember where they found food last winter.

The crabapples were full of turkeys last year,
so many heavy birds the branches broke. Again
the crabapples are covered with fruit, even the old
apple tree has fruit clinging beyond ladder’s reach.

Two hours later I call you to come look, a flock of turkeys
has marched out of the woods crossing the east field
in a ragged line, breaking through crust every few steps.
A column of refugees, exhausted trying to outwalk death.

They slowed at the weedy edges bordering the field,
drifting in and out of woody patches pecking disinterestedly
at weeds until they saw the crabapples. Suddenly, feathers
flashed black and tan, the color of wet bark and bright copper,

and the turkeys were joyously feeding in the trees. They ate
for a long while then walked single file to a stand of hemlocks.
Do you think they were summoned your thoughts?
Or was it their approach that turned your thoughts to them?

They leave in their wake more evidence, for more seems
to be needed, of what we do not know. Of what passes
invisibly between us all. Of this much we can be sure –
there is more – there is more.

— Howard J Kogan

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

PAUL: Thank you, Howard! Next up is the host of the brand new monthly Poetry Extravaganza poetry reading series at the Root & Press Bookstore and Cafe in Worcester, Joe Fusco Jr….

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE: Here are two pieces. This first one I wrote last Thanksgiving during the Covid restrictions…

Thanksgiving 2020

Dear Family,

Thanks to Governor Baker, there’s some changes to our travel plans:
We will be driving to Vermont then dog-paddling Lake Champlain till we reach the Atlantic Ocean.

Please purchase a wet suit.

Ocean-bound, we will rent kayaks for the trip to Hawaii. If we average thirty minutes per mile, it will take approximately 2,200 hours to reach the islands.

Please pack snacks.

Once in Hawaii, we will celebrate Thanksgiving though it will be late February. Use your earned sick time.

We’ll feast on Spam shaped like a turkey, poke, and poi. We’ll listen to Don Ho drinking songs.

Please RSVP to your Mom so she knows what size can of Spam to purchase.

Remember I’m terrible with maps and directions so none of the above information may be useful.

Stay safe. Wear your masks.

Aloha!

Dad

—Joe Fusco Jr.

This second one is relatively new…

Thankful

I fight depression every day.
Sometimes, I win. Sometimes, I lose. Sometimes, we call it a draw and move on.
I’m thankful:
Thankful for a wife who knows when to give me space and when to smother me with attention.
Thankful for our children, now young adults, who allow me to still be an integral part of their lives.
Thankful for our grandkids who give me pure joy!
Thankful for old friends who embellish the past and new friends who expand the future.

I’ve wrestled with depression for twenty-three years.
I used to wear an elastic band on my left wrist that I would snap when things spun out of control.
I wish my brother had an elastic band he could snap instead of losing his life to self-medication.
I wish our country had an elastic band we could snap right now!

I dance with depression every night.
Sometimes, I lead. Sometimes, I follow.
I’m just thankful the music still plays.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Thank you so much, Joe! By the way, I will be the featured poet at Joe’s Poetry Extravaganza poetry reading at the Root & Press on Thursday, December 30th.

And now last but not least in tonight’s open mic, my cousin Dwayne Szlosek…

Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE: Hi everyone, So here we are again. Another Thanksgiving. And I thought I would give you a Thanksgiving poem tonight instead of NINE GUN BILLY…

THANKSGIVING

Turkeys come.
Turkeys go.
And when we are eating turkey,
We should give thanks to all those military heroes
As well to our police and fire departments.
They are also heroes too.
And to give thanks to those who have fallen.
And to those who are still here with us.
Give thanks to our families,
Like our mother and father,
Brothers and sisters,
Uncles and aunts,
Nephews and nieces,
As well as our cousins and friends
That join up in the military and police and fire departments.
To those who have fallen,
I hope that we all will visit the cemeteries,
and lay one flower upon their graves
On Thanksgiving day each and every year.
And they will know that we all gave thanks
to our heroes…

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 11\ 14\19)

Thank you, and God bless you all….

PAUL: Thanks, Dwayne! I am going to close out this evening’s poetry show with yet another prayer from Four Prayers and a Curse which I feel might be apt for times like these…

The Critic’s Prayer

Oh God, give me a critical ear
So anything that it might hear
Which I do not understand,
I’ll dismiss with a sneer,
Make sure it gets panned.
Oh God, give me a critical ear.

Oh God, give me a critical eye,
So anything that it might spy
Which I don’t particularly like,
I’ll vilify & crucify
With a verbal spike.
Oh God, give me a critical eye.

Oh God, give me a critical disease,
So anyone who won’t do what I please
Or chooses to disagree,
I’ll infect with a sneeze.
Then they’ll think just like me.
Oh God, give me a critical disease.

Amen.

—Paul Szlosek

Thank you so much everyone for participating in tonight’s Virtual Poetorium! Good night, and since we won’t meet again until December 28th, have a Merry Christmas! We are looking forward to hopefully seeing you all back here in another month for our second annual Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium!