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.