At Lincoln Park Pool

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

de­spite the heat
ad­vi­sory, I brought my
son to swim. ninety-four de­grees
on July 4th and Cleveland has been
grilling ribs since 9AM
and bot­tle rocket blast­ing since
June 15th.

My son runs off — but Antonio,
thumbprinted mark of Cain
beshoul­dered, 
ever-bel­liger­ent, 
red­mopped stut­terer with 
metal-backed teeth — comes to spit self-con­scious
im­pu­dence. He may sway to 
full-bore bully in an­num
but now the ques­tion growl­ing in his seven-year skull re­mains
unan­swered. I fa­ther at him, a learned herd­ing, out­flank,
astray, askance, a thwart to de-rile his style.
Girls with fresh breasts, too shy
to show their bikinis un­der shirt, come 
tell me how cute my son is. Girls not much younger
take turns sit­ting on spout of foun­tain­spray, hands trick­ling
down…
ever all-pur­sued by some om­nipresent brown brawl of boys, 
stum­ble-tongued and
puppy-ea­ger.

And I feel my age as
the only par­ent here — adrift of vigor — cross-legged on a thread­bare blan­ket
palms flat into 
ground grit — A tart
mag­na­nim­ity, and all these young run­ning to be old. 
As chil­dren sus­pect we
with­hold — I clutch this.
It is right to keep from them.
The pat­ri­mony, my first
taste of en­tropy as cool lemon­ade. 
I died when my life be­came my child’s.
Already my blood 
only heats be­tween hot
con­crete and sky blaze. As some­thing done grown,
I watch this pack of grow­ing things.

A soggy neon el­lip­sis with spi­rals of wa­ter
flung as it flies. A poor throw brings 
the ball to
the feet of 
Antonio
and
the chil­dren all shout
his name. All shout his
name. A bend and I see 
fin­gers squeeze 
wa­ter; drops 
stut­ter pool­side, the metal
creak of the life­guard stand.
ALL shout his name.
A choice made but in­ept arm
be­trays — launched in the 
gen­eral vicin­ity of
no one. 

An erup­tion
of wa­ter and from the scrum sud­denly
the whole pool is play­ing catch. 
Old men and life­guards, my son
astride my shoul­ders arms aloft
and we all shout his name. All
brought to life for
what I’ll re­mem­ber as — amid sun and the shad­ows of lost dogs — the mo­ment
when
Antonio was king.

Against the Open Mic

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Today I’ve given up at­tempt­ing to read at po­etry open mics. I at­tended the quar­terly open mic held at the Cleveland Public Library and thought it was go­ing to be great, no fa­mil­iar faces, lots of first timers — hes­i­tant, un­pol­ished, earnest. Thus, I tweeted.

Why good? Because the Cleveland po­etry scene is filled with old men writ­ing shit po­etry. Old men writ­ing shit po­etry and telling each other it reads like roses. The only thing more an­noy­ing than an ego­tis­ti­cal poet is an ego­tis­ti­cal poet who writes crap. In Cleveland, this has been go­ing on for so many years — with poet heads are so far up their poet navels — that these guys feel en­ti­tled to a mea­sure of adu­la­tion and a pass on their poor be­hav­ior. It’s nigh in­ces­tu­ous, but, more char­i­ta­bly, prob­a­bly just di­rec­tional se­lec­tion. It’s off-putting to grounded writ­ers, and dis­taste­ful to neo­phytes.

What hap­pened to­day is that one of these guys waltzed in to the open mic af­ter miss­ing all of the other read­ers and then spent 5 min­utes rum­mag­ing through a ream of un­or­ga­nized po­ems for the 3 sheets of his own poem. Then the friend who ac­com­pa­nied him read a cou­ple of nice po­ems. Afterward, no one else seemed keen to read ex­cept for me, but the open mic was brought to a awk­wardly abrupt end by an au­di­ence mem­ber in­stead of the li­brar­ian who has been run­ning it. Omphalo-Cranially-Inverted Poet then pro­ceeded to tell the rest of the read­ers that the CPL has a whole shelf de­voted to his po­etry, and that he has over 50 vol­umes. He ended with “If you like my po­etry, check them out! If you don’t…” and shrugged.

I de­cided to write a few ba­sic guide­li­nes for po­ets who choose to read at open mics. They are de­signed for pri­madon­nas, but pri­madon­nas won’t read them.

  1. Come pre­pared. Do not bring your en­tire body of work un­less it is or­ga­nized and each poem is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. Rummaging through fold­ers and binders and half-rot­ted box tops for un­la­beled sheets of po­etry wastes everyone’s time.
  2. Come on time. Do not roll in to the venue late, as if you own the place, thereby miss­ing all of the po­ets who have gone be­fore you.
  3. Listen to the other po­ets. Do not spend your non-read­ing mo­ments choos­ing a poem or prepar­ing to read your poem.
  4. Do not mo­nop­o­lize. This is not your po­etry read­ing. It be­longs to every­one. Two po­ems of reg­u­lar length are ac­cept­able. Three if shorter. Do not read your epic, no one has time for that shit.
  5. Do not brag. It’s an open mic. If you’re hot, peo­ple will al­ready know you’re hot, so you don’t need to bring it up. If your po­ems are good they will speak for them­selves.
  6. Do not pro­mote. Unless you’re a fea­tured reader, an open mic is not the place for you to shill your­self. Saying “If you want some of my po­ems, see me af­ter the read­ing.” is ac­cept­able. Trying to sell your po­ems like they are a time-share is not.
  7. Appreciate the other po­ets. Clap for every reader. If some­one says it is their first time read­ing in pub­lic, clap for them be­fore they even read.

Hm. Seven is a good num­ber. I’ll stop.