THE GIFT OF WORDS: I did my next to last reading of the year last night at The Gift of Words, a GLBTQ reading organized by Franklin Abbott at the Ponce de Leon Library, which is home to the city's largest collection of GLBTQ literature. There were some fab poets on the bill, including Theresa Davis, Robin Kemp (her New Orleans poem took my breath away), Vim Jairath, Stan D., Cleo Creech and music from Melinda Kingsley.

Personally, I didn't think it was one of my better readings. Sometimes I can hear myself sliding into this strident, un-cadenced voice that throws me off completely. I was stumbling over words and then the audience laughed in the middle of my poem Acid Flashback #1, and it totally made me lose my momentum because their laughing made me laugh.

Anyway, I was finally able to trot this poem out. This is about the fourth draft...still a little too long, but I thought I would run it up the flagpole.


Hurt (San Francisco)

The bloody San Francisco sock,
heel still rust-stained,
emerges from the wash,
clean and not clean, a reminder
of those two days,

new shoes dissolving flesh.

That boy in Powell Street Plaza,
wearing dirty wet socks, clutching
thin shirt closed in 48 degrees.
The gray sky, the gray buildings,
the gray street all merging
with that boy's soaked feet.

I saw him everywhere,
and those just like him, all cold
and shivering along Market Street,
huddled in doorways
or the back of streetcars, trying to
disappear into wet vinyl.
From Fisherman’s Wharf to Haight,
crying out for change in sandwich shops,
the clerk, attitude and spotted face,
screaming, “get out,

you’ll make the customers sick.”

And in the library, all slick stone,
more gray, the homeless lined up
for 15 minutes at a free computer.
Were they writing loved ones,
searching for jobs or just reconnecting
with what we take for granted?

One rag man, eyeing me suspiciously,
said, “you go first. I don’t like sitting there.

They can see what you’re typing.”

I sit down, sign on, look back at the row
waiting behind me, pulling their bags closer.
I realize I could be one of them,
in my soaked coat and plastered hair.
The woman next to me, her mouth agape,
toothless and sucking air, watching a video
of Johnny Cash singing Hurt.
Her hand quivers over the keyboard,
imitating Johnny’s palsy piano shake,
and June Carter cries on the stairs and
the glory days flash past and the woman
will spend her allotted time watching
this over and over again, return
to the end of the line and watch again.
Her face a slate, except when the music starts.
A spark is there, an antidote against gray
and darkness, tears run into her open mouth,
gasping at this turn of events,
this slice of life served cold.

No help is coming, no government aid.
she has no oil coursing through her veins,
her country has already been plundered,
warred upon, left a shadow of its former self.

I can feel my shoe filling with blood.

Comments

Cleo said…
Collin you did fine at the reading, maybe it was the glare from all the candles throwing you off? It was interesting too with the lighting that you couldn't actually see the audience, that makes things a little different as well.

I like that poem a lot, I just have one suggestion, I think there's actually two poems in there struggling to get along. The Library piece I think could really stand on it's on. Even when you read it, it comes across as two poems.
Collin said…
It is a bit long and probably could be divided into two poems. I'm thinking about that. Thanks for the suggestion.

I am mailing off my last two "give away" copies of Phoenix Feathes this weekend to a friend in England and another in Virigina. I've saved two for myself and one for my folks. Thanks again for making the chapbooks, Cleo. They are gorgeous.
nolapoet said…
Thanks for the nice compliment, Collin! I thought you did fine.

It was a little strange to read in the darkened room, but I rather enjoyed not having the visual distractions. I could make eye contact yet still focus on what I was doing.

From an audience POV, it was wonderful as always, and I think better for the candlelight.

On another thing...

I'd like to get up a group of Atlanta poets to go down to New Orleans, bring more books/tools/ supplies/donations, and do a reading for the N.O. crowd. Can we start rounding up folks? I'm thinking after Twelfth Night (Jan. 6 or 7 when Carnival season starts, maybe later when the bill is free at the venue.)

If I can get at least half a dozen poets who are both willing and able to get their hands dirty and live in very dirty, shitty conditions (like sleeping on a piece of someone's floor when not handling nasty stuff) for a Thursday through Sunday weekend, then I can get us a VERY appreciative audience and venue.

I want people who can and will help remove drywall and such other nastiness in addition to reading poetry. (If Theresa wants to come but still can't get around much, we'll find something else for her to do.)

Email me for details.

Robin
Anonymous said…
Excellent language, Collin. I treble or quadruple (to tired to count) the motion for 2 pieces!

I really dig the Cash extensions.

-D.
Lisa Allender said…
Yeah,Collin, you do indeed have at least two separate poems there--that woman watching "Hurt"---whew!-- talk about breath-taking...

Really great reading by everyone at that event.Just lovely!
And Cleo--the chapbooks are just GORGEOUS! Thank you!
Anonymous said…
Collin,

I can't imagine you giving a bad reading. I'm willing to bet you're being too hard on yourself.

-Dustin

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