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
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
ever all-pursued by some omnipresent brown brawl of boys, 
stumble-tongued and

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 
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
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.