College Poetry Night

photo credit: Abbe Arenson

Poetry night November 2009

thought it might be good to roost on college campus
for poetry night,
the night of the new moon,
listening to fresh voices for inspiration
something to assault my elder brain with key words
to give my dulled senses new food
I was hungry to write again

about thirty students and their professor assembled
I was the oldest one in that room
absorbing their ages and innocence
watching their squirming angst as
the professor told them to come up and read,
read something they wrote,
read something by someone else,
he began the evening by reading his own work
I don’t remember one word

the first young man stood right up
macho, tanned, firm arms ablaze with colored inks
and clingy shirt to compliment,
he reminded me of Michael Fitzsimmons
in “Peggy Sue Got Married” –  his words curt and forceful,
trying for hardedge reflection,
the girls whispered and smiled
this was the one Peggy Sue would crave

the white girls came up one by one
shiny haired, nervous and generic
despair, depression, break ups, near  suicides,
the pattern was set for every designer jeaned one of them
except for one who mumbled something at a Nascar pace
about trying to understand her two year old cousin,
while a petite blond peeped in a high overture to
Dickinson’s, “I heard a Fly Buzz

Then a beaded and braided, “player” swaggered to the mike
silky smooth in his Barry White delivey
the voice overrode what he was saying
he will be a DJ or radio host
the velvety voice will net its’ lions’ share
of female prey

I do remember the bespectacled student
I do remember his serious rap, his ramrod vibe
his righteous tangent on hope and God
and Jesus being the light – the way
he spoke with clarity and passion,
I pictured a stern mother
delivering  Biblical justice with a firm hand

my eyes wandered through the herd
scoped out  ‘boys’ through ‘cougar’  eyes,
I liked the dirty blond with goatee –
found myself still  drawn to the same ‘type’
that appealed to me in high school  4 decades ago,
my mind buzzed back to days of mad crushes,
learning what the word cunnilingus meant,
French kissing and copping feels  under bleachers and
of course rejection
ah, the ‘60’s, the best times ever,
but back to poetry

the rest of the poems seemed like fine silicate
loose words slipping off pages
kids read, then were rewarded with light, polite clapping for all,
one woman in her forties held worn sheets of paper,
pieces  about cancer, death and killing
I would call it melancholy “schmaltz”  at best
go look it up, gentiles

when time finally lapsed between readers
the Professor got up and read another of his poems
which was funny to the ear
as the young crowd all laughed at the staged lines,
but I heard the undertones ,
of wanting fame and reverence for self
for wishing that swooning college females would hive
at his honeyed words and experience,
it was obvious  mid-life was imploding,
the balding pate, the soft body looked computer chained
the humor was truth doused in itching powder
tickling him without mercy
about all that had been denied

when he finished, the professor looked around-
was about to call it a night
when from the back stood a skinny, dark haired guy ,
looked about twenty,
he slinked up to the podium on tall khaki legs
standing silent for a moment-
no notes, no books, no laptop in attendance
we waited as he took in a breath
and began to recite
and recite he did,
stanza after compelling stanza
a poem not his own, but so impacting in its’ delivery
it should have been,
the subject was about going back to rehab,
it cut gashes into my psyche
my blood took to splashing hard against the arteries,
he made me shiver in his sincerity,
I saw scenery and visions raped by knowledge too sage
for one so young to know,
but he spoke with eloquence –
with the fullness of living behind thick shadows,
of speaking a churchyard elegy to a corpse still alive
this was the moment worth waiting for,
this was ‘The One’ worth hearing,
the one who was calm, yet dangerous,
the one reeking of undigested fumaroles waiting for a shunt
the audience silenced by his chainsaw reality –
the poet he memorized should sweat him

there was silence for a second or two after he finished –
words like scorching rain were still wetting
and burning the audience
and then came the clapping
hands reddened by hard smacking
for the savior of poetry night, the true artist among us,
or rather a true actor who walked past all of us
walked right out of the room before the accolades finished –
more of an exile than an exit

the veneer of the night finally peeled  –
I walked out to my truck under the dark new moon,
slipped the key into the ignition
but didn’t turn it,
I closed my eyes
waiting for the moment of impact…

3 thoughts on “College Poetry Night

  1. This is one of your best for its impact and the many beautiful, powerful turns of words. You took us in that room and made us feel what you did, left us wishing we had heard the brilliance of that young man.

    • Beda, that young man was really amazing, how he remembered a long long poem like that must have taken hours of reading and reading. He was thrilling because it felt like he had been there and taken it all to heart. Any compliments which I thank you for, belong to him for the inspiration, if he had not been there, this would be flatlined!

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