Virtual Poetorium (September 28, 2021)

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THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM

September 28, 2021

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Good evening everyone! Welcome to the Virtual Poetorium for September 28th, 2021. As I look out in the audience, I see the familiar faces of our dedicated Poetorium regulars and want to thank you all for joining us on this lovely early Autumn night. I am sorry to say my co-host Ron Whittle will not be with us here tonight. Unfortunately, there has been some complications with Ron’s health situation, and although we originally planned to announce on this night our return to the Poetorium live shows  in Southbridge starting Thursday, November 18th, we have decided, due to these developments, to place all plans for the live Poetorium on indefinite hold. However, in light of this, we will continue to do a monthly Virtual Poetorium, instead of switching to quarterly editions as we previously announced. Please keep Ron in your thoughts and prayers, and I will let you know if things change.

I am pleased to announce that we have a fantastic featured poet for you tonight, Diane Puterbaugh (author of the chapbook 31), who is joining us all the way from Jackson, Tennessee. We will be inviting her up on stage in just a little while, but before we do, I will officially open the show with one of Ron’s most recent poems…

I still remember it as if it was not long past
but it was so many years ago

You are not your name
or the clothes you wear
your style or the cut of your hair
I’ve never known someone so well
and still felt there was so much
more to discover
Some might hear it
while others like me
know it in our hearts
Love is a gamble that some will win 
while others lose
and the worst of it is
time will tell them nothing but 
I told you so
Here in my struggle for fame
and fortune
I want to be what others 
see in me and
when it comes down to it
I can never really hide myself 
from me, let alone you
Hope and cheerfulness
come and go again
often in one brief hour
in which they bear witness
to my feelings
Love comes with a chance
for it is often partly cloudy
before the sun brings a new day

—Ron Whittle (2021)

As we’ve been doing for the last few shows, I will bypass the “Mystery Poet” segment so we can hurry up and bring Diane Puterbaugh up to the stage for her interview and feature. But before we do, I’d like to let you know a little more about Diane…

Diane Puterbaugh

Diane Puterbaugh lives in Jackson, TN with her husband, Ron, Pippa, the puppy and Cleo, the fat gray cat. She works part-time in a daycare, so she can spend afternoons playing. She has had plenty of poems published, but many that have not. Diane belongs to the Jackson Writer’s Club and also enjoys gardening, bird watching, running and practicing meditation and yoga. She is originally from Elmira, NY, but has lived in Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Diane has learned that no matter where you are, the best place to be is here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to Diane Puterbaugh!

PAUL: Welcome to the Poetorium stage, Diane! Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. The reason we interview our featured poet at the beginning of the show is to let our audience get to know them a little better before we hear their work.  Normally, Ron starts each interview, but since he can not be here with us tonight, I will begin with the questions that Ron prepared in advance for tonight’s interview. His first question would have been what got you started writing?   Something triggered you to write, what was it?

DIANE: Being read to as a child is what prompted me to write. I wanted to create mysterious and wonderful worlds, too. I remember my mother showing me the library’s display of Beatrix Potter’s little books, and I was enthralled with the gentle pictures of rabbits and kittens. Like so many girls my age, when I was in fourth grade I began reading Nancy Drew. I wrote my own mystery stories with the main character named Patty Colbrook.

PAUL: Who more than anyone else influenced your style of writing?

DIANE: Charles Simic has influenced my writing style. There is a tender melancholy throughout his poems and essays that stays with me. I aspire to write like Bernadette Mayer. She is so good at capturing the irony of everyday life, and her work nudges me to relax, not strive for perfection.

PAUL: What influences your choice of subject matter?

DIANE: The change of seasons and what I see out my kitchen window influences the subject matter of my poetry. I read “Report from the Birdfeeder” by Bernadette Mayer (p. 90 of Works & Days) this spring, and I wrote a bunch of weather, tree and bird poems.

PAUL: How often do you appear in front of an audience to read your poetry?

DIANE: I have never read anything to an audience- no poetry slams, no open mics, no organized readings. Jackson, TN does not offer much in the poetry department. Memphis is 80 miles away. Nashville is 120 miles away, so poetry events are quite a drive down I-40.

PAUL: If you could teach someone younger than you how to write poetry, what would be the first item and why?

DIANE: For students believing poetry is difficult to understand or has too many rules, so they are intimidated, I would encourage them to realize song lyrics are often poems first. Listen to music and see what words happen.

PAUL: Well, that was Ron’s final question, so now I will start asking some of my own… Diane,  I see you were raised in Elmira, New York, but spent most of your adulthood in the South. Would you classify yourself as a “Southern Poet”, and if so, what does that term mean to you, and do you think your poetry would be much different if you remained up North?

DIANE: Yes, I would classify myself as a “Southern Poet.” I have a chapbook at a local publisher right now with the theme Southern Suburban Spring. Because I am influenced by the seasons, I absolutely believe my poetry would be different if I lived up North- 6 months of winter will do that to y’all!

PAUL: Do you feel if there is any relationship between your meditation practice and your poetry and writing?

DIANE: Whether it is meditation or just a few quiet moments on a park bench, taking time to breathe can allow you to notice connections between your outside and inside worlds. Noticing the interrelatedness of our emotions, goals, the news, our health, just everything, definitely comes through in writing.

PAUL: Do you have a favorite spot or special location where you like to write?

DIANE: Home. I like quiet, so no coffee shop or park writing for me.

PAUL: I know I’ve already asked you  Ron’s question about who has influenced your writing, but from my personal experience, I realize influences may not necessarily be the same as the poets you like to read. Are there any favorite poets or writers you haven’t yet mentioned?

DIANE: I spent the entire summer with The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara. I enjoyed the New York-ness of his work. I like many of those New York School writers. They are smart, usually cultured and definitely self absorbed. Hmm, maybe they are the opposite (or alter ego?) of us Southerners!

PAUL: Your work has appeared in quite a few publications. Do you have any helpful advice for novices about submitting and getting published?

DIANE: My advice to someone just beginning to submit work is the same as what everyone says, read a few copies of the journals you are submitting to, so you know your poems are the right fit. Also, there are online sites popping up all the time. Try the newer journals who may not have so many submissions to read. Their response time will be faster, too. Speaking of faster, you can let something sit. Faster is not usually better. Your work will not run away, so it is okay to wait to see if better words or rhythm or line breaks come.

PAUL: Do you recall the first poem you ever had published? Could you tell us where it appeared, and if possible, share it with us now?

DIANE: The first poem I had published was in college. It was about squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom! College was a waaaay long time ago, so here is something from an old blog:

The Old People I Know Remember 5 Digit Phone Numbers

The old people I know tell stories
about finding parking at the Christmas Eve service
about (mis)adventures at the AT&T store
about why they won’t go to Charleston, because
they are afraid they will break a hip

The old people I know
eat at McDonald’s, watch the Yankees,
remember Guadelcanal and
5 digit phone numbers
RE4-2543, my mother used to say

Uncle Harry fell asleep
at my father’s funeral
Death becomes so common
that you can fall asleep at
your brother’s funeral

The old people I know have driveways
When I back away I wonder
is this the last time I will see you?
Good bye, old person who I love so much
With forced smiles and guilty good byes
we make it seem like no big deal to
the old people I know

—Diane Puterbaugh

PAUL: Would you tell us about the writing group that you belong to, and how being a part of it has helped your poetry?

DIANE: Jackson Writer’s Club began as a NaNoWriMo group. I am the only member identifying as “poet,” but a few others good naturedly tolerate prompts for haiku or one evening we tried blackout poetry. The best aspect of our writing group is that we represent, welcome and cheer for all writing styles, genres and creative goals.

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

DIANE: I just began writing a mystery novel. A couple weeks ago, at 6 a.m., I went out for a run, but there was a small gas can on its side in the road in front of my neighbor’s house. The little 2 gallon gas can looked mysterious all alone in the street, and this is the the start of the novel.

PAUL: My final question of the evening is there any question that you would like to answer about your life, or poetry, or anything else that Ron and I have failed to ask during this interview?

DIANE: Words are for everyone. Writing is a form of self-expression. You do not have to be published to be a writer. You are a writer if you write.

PAUL: So unless someone in the audience has a question… no?…well then, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Diane, thank you so much for such an engaging and thought-provoking interview! Now, folks, please give our featured poet Diane Puterbaugh a tremendous round of applause as she walks to the podium to present her poetry…

DIANE:

Untitled

September Sunday
Hummingbirds chatter
Between the raindrops

—Diane Puterbaugh

Untitled

A young mockingbird is
singing poems in long form
Our music streaming service
is in the willow tree

—Diane Puterbaugh

Untitled

To the left of our front door, a pale purple crocus shivers in the midst of seven days of February rain. Rainrainrainrainrainrainrain. Even the mud is drowning as my husband leaves for work. From the car-perched halfway between the driveway and street-he shouts, “Come look at this dog.” It has muddy paws and a wet belly. Is this my Valentine-a black and white spaniel with a heart-shaped spot on his side?

—Diane Puterbaugh

Crown Winery, Humboldt, TN

Wine down
Whine don’t
Hair do Hair dye Hair spray
Rock me baby
Eric Clapton, hey hey
My husband says, “I’m still trying
to figure out Instagram.”
I’m still trying to figure out
seventh-grade algebra
After 3 glasses of Sweet Charity
here isn’t insta-anything
All the way to Bourbon Street
they sashay by
watching stray raindrops
dry on the paving stones
Dancing is aloud
I mean allowed
An ordinance
I am not a brown-eyed girl, so
I just hold his hand
La la la la la

—Diane Puterbaugh

PAUL: Thank you ever so much, Diane. That was so great! Folks, now let’s demonstrate our appreciation for such a fantastic feature, and give a rousing round of applause for Diane Puterbaugh!

Okay, it’s now that time once again to present this month’s Poetorium group poem, which this month is entitled “What We Believe In…”.  To participate, people were asked to send us one to six lines with the first line starting with the phrase “I believe in…” Once again, the number of contributions we received this month were fewer than usual. I want to thank Bob Perry, Howard J Kogan, and Mishelle Goodwin for their participation and helping to create the following group poem…

What We Believe In…

I believe in disbelief
in the failure of certainty
in serendipity and chance.

I believe in first impressions, second
chances, love & death & everything
changes; forgiveness matters, kindness
transforms, growth is painful, time
is precious, and that words alone are never
enough.

I believe in good deeds and real numbers,
the golden rule and the golden ratio.
I believe in Murphy’s Law,
whatever that can go wrong, will go wrong.
I believe in the lyrics of old Doris Day songs,
whatever will be, will be—que sera, sera!

I believe in taking one day at a time.
It takes me all day to go and spend time with friends,
or getting ready to go to work, Hop in the shower before and then,
just spend all day on my computer watching YouTube or Facebook.
Shop for designer jeans, sweaters, and sneakers.
Or just take a nap on a rainy day.

I will be starting the virtual open mic in just a few minutes, but first, I’ll be presenting the submissions (or rather, submission) we received for this month’s Poetorium Writing Challenge, the segment of the Virtual Poetorium in which each month we challenge you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. This month’s challenge was to write a Crypto, a poetic form created by my cousin and Poetorium regular Dwayne Szlosek. A Crypto is simply a poem which contains a hidden message or poem spelled out in capital letters throughout the poem. Unfortunately only one person, our always reliable Virtual Poetorium regular Mishelle Goodwin, took up the challenge, and sent us one. For some reason, I was not able to decode the secret message within (maybe you can), but I enjoyed her poem (and am sure you will too):

AS I WALK

As I walk alone, I look at all of the shops, stores,
and restaurants On the Streets and all the Shopping Malls.
I get take-out from the Chinese Restaurant, Go to the dollar stores,
Walmart for groceries. Suddenly The Bus!! I get on and soon I am Home.
Get my Mail that is in my mailbox. 
Set everything down to heat my food in the Micro-Wave.
Then eating I decide to grab a pop out of the fridge 
and wash down the rice. Eating until I am full, I put the rest in the fridge. 
Put the rest of my things away. Finishing my pop,
I see what time it is. It’s six-thirty pm. I’m getting ready for bed.
Turning on the radio and listen to the game. I fall asleep,
Suddenly my alarm clock goes off and I get ready for work.
It is a new day what will I do. Let’s see I will do a project.
I write in my journal and place some pictures in my scrapbook.
Write a couple of letters, go mail them, 
and as I walk home I speak to one of my neighbor’s.
It’s nine o’clock I get ready for bed.

—Mishelle Goodwin

As for my own entry, I decided to take a pre-existing poem written by the infamous Dorothy Parker, and convert it into crypto by embedding a hidden critical comment to the speaker of the poem. However I soon discovered the only way I could make the crypto work was to change the gender of the pronouns in the poem. See if you can decode the secret sarcastic advice contained within:

two-volume novel (an altered crypto version by paul szlosek)

the sun’s GonE dim, and
The mOon’s turned black;
for i loVEd heR and
she dIdn’T love back.

—Dorothy Parker

In spite of so few submissions, I hope you enjoyed this month’s Poetorium writing challenge. Thank you so very much, Mishelle, for being the lone poet to accept the challenge.

Like last month, it appears that it will be once again a fairly short open mic this evening with only six people on the sign-up sheet. I will open it up once again in the way that Ron traditionally does—with one of his poems…

Of all the the things I possess

Don’t stare into the eyes of a fire
expecting to find me
it’s flame will not contain me
The fire you look for is in the heart
The heat of which is felt
by the touch of lips 
holding hands
or a smile that says I love you
Our bodies are not infinite
in the universe
but love will burn brightly forever
expressed in the words of poetry
or the use of my name
on your lips

—Ron Whittle (2021)

Now please give a warm welcome to our first poet in tonight’s open mic, Joe Fusco Jr…

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE:

“Afootadaa!”

My Grandmother died at the ripe old age of ninety-nine in 1999.
I was her oldest and favorite grandchild.My Grandmother had an Italian saying
that she invoked when people questioned her actions, opinions, or decisions.
“Ma, you shouldn’t serve the men food before the rest of the family,” my Aunts would implore.
“Afootadaa!” my Grandmother would reply.
“Julia, you need to take the pills I prescribe for you every day,” her doctor would insist.
“Afootadaa!” my Grandmother would reply.
“Mrs. Fusco, you can’t touch every peach I have on the stand,” the corner-grocer would plead.
“Afootadaa!” my Grandmother would reply.

I googled “Afootadaa!” and found no such word in the Italian/English dictionary.
My 82-year-old Aunt believes it was one of many Italian expressions my Grandmother made
“It meant ‘screw you’ or ‘go to hell’ or ‘ who are you to tell me what to do’” my Aunt translated.
“Your Grandmother also had a saying ‘Afondo Giddyap!’ which meant ‘ You’re a horse’s ass!’”

I believe my wife and I have reached the “Afootadaa!” stage of our lives.
At and over sixty, we find our actions, words, and decisions becoming increasingly unfiltered.
“You two spend too much time at the casino,” our children scold.
“Afootadaa!” we reply.
“You guys certainly like your Tanqueray and wine,” our friends chide.
“Afootadaa!” we reply.
“You can’t stop coming every week. We’re finally making progress,” our therapists implore.
“Afootadaa!” we reply.

 Last week, a local politician rang our bell then spent fifteen minutes
explaining why he was so much better than his opponent.
“Do I have your votes in the primary,” he finally asked us.
“Afondo Giddyap!” we replied then closed the door.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Joe, by the way, will be the featured poet this Thursday, September 30th at the brand new Poetry Extravaganza reading from 6pm to 8pm at the Root and Press Bookstore & Cafe on Chandler Street in Worcester on the last Thursday of every month. Be sure to catch him there if you possibly can.

And now please welcome our next poet, the one and only Howard J Kogan…

Howard J Kogan

HOWARD: My advice to poor poets!

Product Placement or How to Make Big Bucks in Poetry

I shut off my Sony 48” LCD TV and went to get ready.  I carried my Starbucks coffee in with me, placing it on the Ikea nightstand.   I showered with Head and Shoulders shampoo and washed with fresh smelling Irish Spring soap.  I dried myself with a luxurious Cannon bath towel from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Grandma was dead.  I dressed quickly in my Kenneth Cole Suit from Men’s Wearhouse that goes so well with my blue Arrow shirt and patterned Bugatchi tie.  I drove my Honda Accord to the (this space still available) Funeral Home.

My sexy cousin Marsha arrived the same time I did.   She looked fetching in her Anne Klein dress and Adiamo high heels.  She had flown in on American Airlines and was staying at the Marriott.  We hugged and she whispered her room number in my ear.  The service was just beginning as we entered the Chapel.  Grandma had been old, and sadly hadn’t been able to remember me last time I visited, though thanks to Aricept her decline had been very gradual.  In fact, Grandma hadn’t been able to remember herself the last time I saw her, though she could still sing all the stanzas to “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

The service was very touching and Marsha and I grew teary.  I handed her my Kleenex pocket pack. She held my hand and played with my Timex Indiglo, flashing it on and off like a firefly in heat while I got high on her Chanel #5.  I was glad I remembered to take my Cialis in the morning.  I think the Nature’s Way ginkgo biloba is really working. 

—Howard J Kogan

PAUL: And now we have my cousin and the creator of the Crypto poetry form, Dwayne Szlosek…

Dwayne Szlosek Dressed as Nine Gun Billy

DWAYNE: I hope ever one is doing well tonight…

Nine Gun Billy 7

It’s still June 6th 1880;  I jump on to my horse,
and head down the path along the edge of the cliff as quick as i can,
but not too quick. I don’t want the horse to lose its footing.
If he goes straight down, I go with him.

Once on the ground I can now pick up the pace.
I travel along the river, calling out my cousin’s name;
“Paul, Paul !! ” I shout, but no answer.
I am in one hours time, still no Paul.
Starting to lose hope.

Finally about another half mile down stream, I see something,
something big and dark along the side of the water.
I take out my field glasses, and look through them at the dark object.
I become excited to see Paul, laying on top of the bear,
the bear laying on top of a flat rock.
Neither the bear or my cousin are moving.

I quickly rush over there to see if Paul is all right.
He is alive. He has blood all over him.
A lot of the blood is the bear’s
but there is blood of his own.
His cheek is bleeding where the bear cut him deep with his claws.
I get out my sewing kit and sew up his cheek to stop the bleeding.

I see how Paul killed the grizzly,
by taking his 12” inch knife, and putting it through the bear’s skull
and through his brain, killing the grizzly.
I pick up Paul off the bear and put him on my horse,
I strap Paul down so he can’t fall off.
I walk him back to camp.

Once there, I unstrap him and pull him off my horse,
and lean him up against the tree.
He awakes and looks up at me.
I ask Paul “Could you have found something bigger to kill instead ?”
He just smiles and doesn’t say a word.

We stay at the camp for two days.
Paul has his strength back
so we pack up our gear.
On the 8th day, we head out to find those five men…

Nine Gun Billy

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 7\25\2021) 

I hope you all enjoyed Nine Gun Billy tonight.
Thank you and good night…🤓🙃🤘

PAUL: Our next poet is Bob Perry…

BOB: Hello Poetorium!

This month’s offering is from my upcoming book Earthsongs, scheduled for release in early 2022 from Human Error Publishing. It is a collaboration with my artist friend Ferol Ann Smith, and will be 50 poems/50 sketches.

Flatlining

how egregiously we sleepwalk our days 
oblivious to the larger Life, reacting 
not responding, waiting to speak
and not listening, missing life’s 
abundant opportunities.

eschewing intimacy we settle for less by
buying more, hiding behind screens dumbing
down our dreams , embracing the
nonsensical, acting reprehensible
idolizing idiocy.

alienated from ourselves and one another we
kill the planet again and again, choosing 
convenience over conscience, choking off the 
umbilicus of our Mother as we reap
our due reward.

it is not too late to discover our disconnect,
opening ourselves to a vision of the universal
awakening to each infinitesimal choice
softening our edges, stepping back from the ledges
becoming one Creation.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Flatlining by Ferol Ann Smith

PAUL: Our next poet is Mishelle Goodwin…

MISHELLE:

AUTUMN

It was an Autumn day. The leaves have started to change, it has been raining for days and the leaves started fluttering to the ground. It is a typical cold October day and to start with typical Halloween parties along with the kids who go out trick-r-treating. As I watch the trick or treaters and go to pass out all of the goodies to eat from candy to cookies and more.

As I was walking in the park, feeding the ducks, and noticed there was a couple with a bunch of kids there as well. They were playing and feeding the ducks, geese, and swans at the lake. I often go to this place to watch the leaves fall because it means we’re getting ready for another year. Another one has gone by and soon it was Halloween.

Even on my long walks in the woods I like to pick flowers, rake the yard, and make huge piles of leaves to jump in. Autumn is the time that I spend getting ready for winter and the holidays. When I was younger as I played with the other kids raking the leaves, making piles, and jumping in the piles when we were finished we put them into huge bags and dumped them into dumpsters. Some times we burned them and then scooped the ashes up to put in bags and also put them in the dumpster.

Did you ever bob for apples, or dress up just to go out trick or treating and go out to have fun to a Halloween party? Ever spend time with family and friends bobbing for apples? Making candy apples or pop corn balls? Do you still like watching the leaves turning colors and as they flutter to the ground? Could you rake them up and have as much fun as all of us do? Or would you rake them into piles and bury myself so deep underneath them? Or even to this day, go rake the yard? Make scarecrows? Carve pumpkins? Put them on the porch with candles in them that were lit? Say “All welcome, everyone, come in.” ? When you’re through, put on my scary music? Decorate the house, get dressed up, and pass out candy to the trick or treaters?

I would like to pick flowers, take pictures of us, and say a prayer. The leaves have all gone away. I put them into bags and threw everything in the dumpster. It’s for Halloween saying Trick-or-Treat. Witching hour. Let the fun begin.  As the final night comes, things get hectic and when everything is finally ready “IT’S HALLOWEEN!”

—Mishelle Goodwin

PAUL: Now, last but not least on our virtual open mic tonight, we have travelling all the way from Lowell, a good friend of the Poetorium, Meg Smith…

Meg Smith

MEG: As a journalist, I’ve been working on a series of articles about the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, starting in Lowell. The rail trail starts at a tunnel that runs under Route 3, and on the other side of the tunnel, I found green leaves with the first tinge of autumn’s red. Well that got me thinking about beginnings and endings. So, here is the poem…

First Leaves Gone

It happened in late August, 
at the tunnel’s opening in
between the city and town.
A child’s chant filled the space:
“Echo, echo, echo.”
But here, amid the green,
something like tears — 
the first touches of scarlet,
of fire, of the coming sleep.
A cold justice, to wake in midwinter. 

—Meg Smith

PAUL: Well that concludes tonight’s open mic. Thank you everyone! Bravo! Bravo! As always, you were all completely amazing!

I am going to close out the show with a poem of Ron’s, but before I do, I’d like to share with you my poem which won third place in the W.C.P.A.’s 2020 Frank O’Hara Poetry Contest and originally appeared in last year’s Worcester Review

It Is Those Odd Little Shops I Like

It is those odd little shops I like,
the ones you find nestled between abandoned storefronts
on side streets in down and out neighborhoods,
their signage (if any) sun-bleached to shades of pastel blue and peach,
announcing inexplicable names like Solomon’s Spa, Happy Sundries,
or Miami Bling Bling Bang Bang (although Florida’s a thousand miles
down the coast). There’s a mishmash of mismatched merchandise-
a quart can of motor oil, a latex swim cap, a toilet plunger,
a 12 oz. bottle of a foreign soft drink – haphazardly displayed
behind the large plate glass window almost opaque with grime,
an obligatory random houseplant (a gnarled jade tree or
a two-foot-high barrel cactus) apparently thriving on dust in the corner.
No customers are ever seen on the premises, so you wonder who shops here,
fantasize if its all a sham, a front for the mob to launder money,
the secret headquarters of the Illuminati or Trilateral Commission.
Someday, you think, if you have enough curiosity and courage
as you stroll by, you may stop, try the door, jiggle the handle.
If it’s not locked, you’ll enter hesitantly, survey the dim interior,
the new old stock scattered on shelves, sniff the air and detect a faint
not-quite-identifiable scent (spiced cabbage, frankincense, myrrh?),
a whiff of the old world or possibly the next. You nod to the gruff
wizened man or woman guarding the cash register, their eyes either
glaring or averted as if you weren’t even there. Snatch up a Zagnut,
a Sky Bar, a tube of medicated muscle rub and attempt a purchase.
“Not for you!”, they’ll say in an accent you do not recognize as they stash
the item beneath the counter.“Not for you!” they repeat as they wave
your money away with an arthritic hand and shoo you out the door.
You are the foreigner, the interloper here. This candy bar, this ointment,
this store, this side street, this neighborhood is not for you,
for who you cannot imagine, but definitely not meant for you or me
and that is precisely why I like these odd little shops so much.

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in The Worcester Review)

And now here is the final poem of the night…

Ron Whittle Reading at a Recent Poetry Reading at the TidePool Bookshop in Worcester, MA

Just so you understand

There was a time when I spent my days
falling through liquor-soaked memories
dreams and possibilities
My optimism was a disease
I picked up visiting hope
in a foreign church

I shouldn’t have expectations from you
I could never let you go
Knowing I don’t get to make
decisions when I’m no longer
the first name in your phone directory

I don’t like feeling like a child
looking for a hand to hold 
All the while I kept you within
my peripheral vision, never letting you
slip to the back of my mind
Those years were 
the hardest days of my life
To be greeted every morning knowing 
life as I knew it could end
A fear that every soldier must too face

You kept me alive
and for that I am sure
What I owe I may never 
be able to pay back 
In my dreams, it was never too late
but my dreams ran out of time

—Ron Whittle (2021)

Thank you once again, everyone! Please keep Ron in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time for him. As I announced earlier this evening, we will continue doing the Virtual Poetorium on a monthly basis (at least, for the time being) so I hope to see you all back here next month for our special spooky Halloween-themed edition. So until then, good night, please take care, stay safe, and keep reading, writing, and breathing poetry…