What will I remember about today, in this city that takes every punch, unflinching, on our chins; that rises up from every blow, standing tall, cut-mouthed against the world? I'll remember that this day is like every other day this city working doubles while you slept on it this city skipping vacation to get the job done this city, laconic, intractable where we bow to no king no, not even our own this city of redemption where we always welcome our sons home Today, today is for YOU to remember: this city can always say it left it all on the floor this city where every stand is a last stand this city where we pull for each other, exchange blood-stained grins and sing loudest for the unsung. You had forgotten what we've always known Cleveland is the city filled with champions and tomorrow, we get back to work.
I met with some neighbors at the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation tonight to learn about their #whatsyouroldbrooklyn social media campaign. I signed up to be one of their local social media ambassadors, was selected, and have now been oriented.
Having spent 4 years (mostly thankless) promoting Tremont out of goodwill via Tremonter (I have no idea what the hell it is now, or who owns the domain), I’m glad to be out of the driver’s seat and happy to help out doing – quite frankly – exactly what I’d be doing anyway. I also have more powerful tools in my pocket than were available from 2004-2008.
I’ve only lived in Old Brooklyn since August 2015, but I like it here. It’s too big to become $450k condos surrounding a street of $40-per-plate restaurants like Tremont – and if there are factions fighting over what “Old Brooklyn” means or should be, I am completely oblivious to them. People keep their yards tidy, shop local, and chat with each other. I don’t feel like this neighborhood is trying to be a destination. I feel, rather, as if it wants to be the place you come home to.
What I value in a neighborhood has changed, especially now that I’m a dad. There’s a lot of authenticity in this part of Cleveland, and a lot of history, and I look forward to helping people discover it. For the next 6 months, I’ll be doing so via Twitter (& Periscope), Instagram, Google+, and to a lesser extent, Facebook and Snapchat (sciurus). There might even be a little Poetry 4 Free action as well. And, of course, posting here on my weblog.
Feeling kind of nostalgic. Should be good.
About a week ago I was contacted by Bill at Fox8 who had remembered my previous Fox8 appearance about my Poetry 4 Free project. His idea was to make a piece about how Clevelanders were reacting to the Cavs being in the finals & he wanted me to come up with something that would help tie it all together. I think he did a great job considering he had to plan the piece to work for victory or defeat. Clevelanders tend to be good at that kind of planning. Here’s the piece:
I also anticipated the possibility of needing two outcomes. My full poem is below. I only gave a couple of hours to it, so it isn’t as revised as I would like, but I knew it was going to be a small part of a larger whole, so I tried to structure it for both coherence and reorganization. I only had to change the first line of the last stanza to change the tone of the poem. Efficiency!
What will I remember about today, in this city that takes every punch, unflinching, on our chins; that rises up from every blow, standing tall, cut-mouthed against the world? I'll remember that this day is like every other day this city working doubles while you slept on it this city skipping vacation to get the job done this city, laconic, intractable where we bow to no king no, not even our own this city of redemption where we always welcome our sons home Today, today is for YOU to remember: this city can always say it left it all on the floor this city where every stand is a last stand this city where we pull for each other, exchange blood-stained grins and sing loudest for the unsung. You have forgotten (or) One day you'll learn what we've always known Cleveland is the city filled with champions and tomorrow, we get back to work.
This morning, my dog and I caught God trying to sneak through the city like a man skipping Mass in search of a drink. He still filled the sky and his steps were like the echoes of an empty hallway. My dog just wagged her tail but I shouted at him: I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN! He didn’t turn, just created a dirty rabbit which he threw over-shoulder at my dog. I don’t know if my dog or the rabbit was more surprised. The rabbit dissipated using natural rabbit-magic, and when I looked, so had God. The city whispered an antiphon: Kýrie, eléison.
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.
Today I wrote my 50th poem in my Poetry 4 Free project. It’s been great fun so far; despite the heavy mocking from my coworkers and the obvious & unspoken doubtfulness from certain folks I know, it has fulfilled, at least in part, all of the goals I had in mind when I started this back in April.
I’m definitely less afraid to write. I have become much better at taking a topic and starting to write on it immediately. I think the poems I produce in 5-10 minutes could be deemed fair for that time frame. I’ve gotten into a few ruts though, and have been trying to change up my methods in order to keep things fresh. I don’t want to be a poem factory, so the repetition is a bad from which I am attempting to draw some good.
I received open-armed permission from the wonderful folks at the Cleveland Public Library to set up every Friday in the Eastman Reading Garden, and post-facto benediction from the lady who manages Star Plaza for Playhouse Square Development. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a public park.
Lots of people give the side-eye, fewer stop for a poem, and, it seems, a large majority of the folks that do stop are interested in telling a story about the dude with the hand-painted sign and a typewriter. The first was a post on Captured Cleveland. Dan Moulthrop from Civic Commons stopped by for a poem and tweeted about it. A fellow writing for Edible Cleveland wanted to put a blurb about me in an article on Walnut Wednesdays. A collage artist asked to use my poem & photo in one of her works. My friend David Jurca even stopped by and took some video one day. Another day, another fellow did so.
I’ve had several folks ask for poems as gifts, and a few return to tell me how much the poem was appreciated. I’ve had sad and poignant requests from estranged husbands, sweet requests from loving wives, silly requests and challenging ones. I’ve written about everything from mortality to anal bleaching. I once accepted a silver dime as a tip, and I still feel vaguely guilty about that.
I’m having a blast, even on days when I get skunked. But I’m also starting to sense that the current status quo isn’t as fulfilling as it once was. I may need fresh ground to cover (I plan on setting up shop in Lincoln Park during the Arts in August events), or I may just be feeling too at ease with the paradigm. I’m open to suggestions about how to shuffle the project in different ways, and I’m very interested in further ways that I can make it less about me. One thing I need to do is write poetry outside of this project. I’ve been very prolific for me, but the practice has resulted in little actual poetry game time. Another change to be conscious of.
You can follow this project on Twitter @Poetry4Free; find out where I’ll be and stop by for a poem. I hope you will.