An Invitation to Participate in the Virtual Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project…

 Dear Readers,

I am so excited to announce that this month, in addition to our regular edition of the Virtual Poetorium,  I am working on a very special poetry project. Although we may be too late for Mother’s Day, there’s still time to celebrate our fathers this year, and so the Poetorium, with the help of my good friend Dee O’Connor, is organizing two ways to do that (and would like to invite you to participate):

1. A Group Ode: To contribute, please send 2-8 lines inspired by the prompt “I Remember My Father” (the phrase may or not be included in the lines). The lines will then be compiled and edited by myself who has prepared many similar group poems for the Poetorium in the past  (bear in mind your lines may be split up and recombined with others to form new stanzas). This ode will be modeled after a similar poem by national poet Kwame Alexander who released “The Ceremony of Giving” on Mother’s Day (you can find his poem and read the full story behind it here @ https://www.bonappetit.com/story/kwame-alexander-mothers-day-community-poem).

2. Father’s Day Virtual Reading: Join us for a poetry reading honoring fathers on June 20th.  Up to 20 poems will be selected and posted in a Father Day’s Poetry Anthology on the Poetorium’s website AND will be read by their authors on Zoom starting at 7:00 p.m. (ET) on Father’s Day.

We’re hoping to have a diverse representation of poets and poetry forms, so please pass this invitation on to anyone anywhere (but especially those living in the Worcester County area of Massachusetts) who may be interested. The group ode, along with up to 20 poems about fathers will be read on the 20th. Please submit one or both of the following either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of your email by June 13th at the latest:

· A poetry stanza inspired by the prompt “I remember my father …”

· One original poem about a father/father figure (be sure to include where your poem has appeared if it was previously published)

You don’t need to submit an entry to participate in the virtual event, but registration in advance is required. To register, please send your name and email address along with any submissions by June 13th to poetorium@mail.com. If you are submitting a contribution to the group ode and/or a poem,  please be sure to include a short bio.

If you have any questions about this special Father’s Day Poetry Project including the group ode, the Zoom reading, the Father’s Day Poetry Anthology to be published on the Poetorium website, or anything else, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope that you will join me and your fellow poets in participating in this special Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project!

The Virtual Poetorium for May 25, 2021…

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to the May 25th, 2021 edition of the Virtual Poetorium celebrating  the the second year anniversary of the Poetorium posted last night on the Poetorium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure: https://poetorium.home.blog/virtual-poetorium-may-25-2021/. As a special bonus, I am also including a link to a video of myself performing this month’s Poetorium group poem “A Multitude of Blessings”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE-HI_wHrLs

However, I have come to a decision not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog like I have done with previous editions in the past, because I feel that in its entirety, it would probably  be too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most readers. As a result, some really excellent poetry would probably be skipped, and that would be a real shame.  So instead, I will just post the opening poem, which originally appeared in Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology complied by David Nader and published by BatCity Press over twenty years ago. I sincerely hope you like it….

Poet or Stripper

If I ever have a seventeen-year-old daughter,
(I admit the possibility is becoming quite remote)
and one morning, as we are chowing down together
on Pop Tarts and Coca Cola, she tells me
she can’t decide on a career,
wavering between poet and stripper,
I would have to advise her to choose the latter.

Now, not even considering economics,
and I heard a good stripper call pull down
a couple thousand a week, but as a poet,
she’d be lucky to see half that in her lifetime,
stripping is obviously the much more moral,
much less degrading profession.
All you have to expose is skin.
And the audiences are always so enthusiastic and responsive,
filled with respected members of the community,
like businessmen and politicians.

But as a poet, you got to perform
in sleazy run-down dives
reeking of amaretto and hazelnut
and cater to the whims of all those underground,
on the fringe, alternative lifestyle types.
You know who I mean:
Environmentalists,
Liberal Thinkers,
and the like.
And they are usually so indifferent
to the poor slob on stage.
You practically have to beg them on hands and knees
for them to listen, to pay any attention at all,
and if they do, they are never satisfied.
They keep demanding
“Take it off!!
Take it all off…” –
the pretenses,
the false facades,
the masks you wear in public.

And you oblige, teasingly peeling away
all the layers, one by one
until your soul is laid bare,
your essence revealed
and you’re left standing there
with your psyche hanging out
for a room full of strangers to gawk at.

Well, if you ask me,
you have to be an attention-craving fool
with no self-respect to want to do
a humiliating thing like that.

—Paul Szlosek (from Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology)

Invented Poetry Forms – The Kindku

In today’s post, we will be discussing the Kindku, a newly invented poetry form inspired by both traditional Japanese forms (like the haiku and tanka) and Found Poetry.  Co-created  by Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis, here are the rules for writing one taken directly from their website, Auroras & Blossoms @ https://abpositiveart.com :

“The Kindku is a short poem of seven lines. The syllable pattern is 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 or 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5.

The Kindku must include seven words that are taken from one specific source — a poem, a book, a newspaper article, etc. In the case of a book or long piece of writing, those words must come from the same page.

Words must be used in the order they were found. Their placement also depends on the line:

  • Line 1 starts with word 1
  • Line 2 ends with word 2
  • Line 3 starts with word 3
  • Line 4 ends with word 4
  • Line 5 starts with word 5
  • Line 6 ends with word 6
  • Line 7 starts or ends with word 7

Kindku poems can have titles and punctuation. No matter the topic covered, they must sport a positive tone.

Kindku poets are encouraged to credit and link to the inspirations behind their pieces.”

I’d also like to add that I was curious if the seven keywords had to be exactly how they appeared in the original source material or could they be in a modified form.  For example, if one of the words was a noun and was plural in the original, could it be singular in your kindku, or if it was a verb in the past tense, are you allowed to use the word in the present tense? I contacted Cendrine, one of the co-inventors of the form, and she told me the words, indeed, have to be exactly as found in the original text (which does make writing a kindku a bit more of a challenge).

Cendrine, also graciously gave me permission to reprint two of the first kindkus ever written (one she wrote, and the other by David, her co-creator) on this blog as examples (I also need to note, if you wish, you can emphasise the seven words taken from the original source material by highlighting them in bold, like Cendrine and David did in the following kindkus, but that is totally optional):

Art Writes Itself

Art writes itself in the heart
before other things;
intent lingers for a while
inviting practice,
lost hope to find a new map.
on this continent
you are the only master.

Kindku inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art

© 2020 Cendrine Marrouat

True Self Remains

Antique, old, not forgotten
Celebrate passions
Heart wants to be filled, always
True self will appear
Mighty are our selfless deeds
Happiness remains
Fear and doubt we chased away.

Kindku inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias

© 2020 David Ellis

Like in all my posts about poetic forms, I am also including my own humble efforts at writing some for you to use as models. I must confess that I did find the Kindku at first extremely difficult to write. Surprisingly, it wasn’t sticking to the exact syllable counts or word order that gave me problems, but the primary rule about the tone of the poem. I wouldn’t say that my first two attempts (one based on Robert Frost’s “The Witch of Coos” and the other from “The Fish” by Marianne Moore”) were exactly negative in attitude, but I wouldn’t describe them as positive and upbeat either, just rather neutral and detached in tone. According to the Auroras & Blossoms website, one of the main purposes of the kindku is to be “an invitation to promote kindness, positivity and inspiration through poetry” (as you can see, the word “Kind” is even a part of the form’s name), so I must emphasise that in order to write a true kindku, you should try to follow this rule as closely as you possibly can, even though what one considers positive probably varies from person to person. Hopefully, in these later efforts, I was able to achieve that goal, but I will let you, dear reader, be the judge:

Isn’t it Obvious?

Visible things often change
from invisible,
fluctuating in between.
Like a magic charm,
your own sense of perception
detects and opens
surrounding unseen doorways.

Kindku inspired by Marianne Moore’s A Jelly-Fish

All Your Uncertainty (Like the Weather) Will Soon Pass…

Fog creeps across the landscape.
Stealthily, it comes.
Little by little, things fade
(you can’t see your feet).
It seems the world’s dissolving
(so ghostly-looking),
then turns solid once again.

Kindku inspired by Carl Sandburg’s Fog

The Way of the Seasons

Summer simmers like hot soup,
cools into Autumn.
Winter, impatient, waits to
be relieved by Spring,
Sowing snow which will melt to  
feed crops planted and
thriving neath the vernal sun.

Kindku inspired by e. e. cumming’s anyone lived in a pretty how town

There is a technique I discovered while working on the above kindkus that I feel makes them easier to write which may prove helpful to you too. Instead of randomly deciding on which seven words to use beforehand, just go through your source material, and choose a word to begin. As you finish the first line,  scan for a succeeding word that will work in your second as your train of thought develops, and so on and so on, making sure to use the words in the order they appeared in the original work.  You will find this way provides flexibility and flow, and you won’t be forced to stick in a predetermined word that just won’t fit in your poem.

If you are like me, you may even find that writing kindkus will become addictive. As you grow more confident in writing them, here is a variant you might like to try using an entire (or partial) line from one of your favorite works (be it a poem, a song, a short, a quotation, etc.) as the source of your seven words. For an example, one of my favorite lines ever from poetry is the final line of “Refrigerator, 1957” by Thomas Lux – “You do not eat that which rips your heart with joy.” Using its last seven words, I came up with the following (which I found quite pleasing):

What’s That?

That unexpected feeling 
in your stomach (which
rips away complacency,
thoughts of despair), your
heart pounding in pure delight
(each thump pulsing with
love), is known, dear friends, as “Joy“…

Kindku inspired by Thomas Lux’s Refrigerator, 1957

So I hope you enjoyed today’s post on the Kindku, and will try writing some for yourself (it is a wonderful way to pay tribute to some of your favorite poems or other written works). Remember, even if you do find the rules a bit restrictive and intimidating at first, don’t give up. Keep going, and I can almost guarantee you’ll be more than satisfied with your results. And please don’t be shy about sharing them, either with me, or the kind folks at Auroras & Blossoms. I am sure they will be thrilled to see them!

The Virtual Poetorium For April 27th, 2021

Dear Readers,

Here is the April 27th, 2021 Virtual Poetorium reposted from the Poetorium website @ poetorium.home.blog. I want to thank my fellow bloggers Brad Osborne & Diane Puterbaugh for graciously accepting the invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. As as extra special bonus, I am also including including a link to a video of myself performing this month’s Poetorium group poem ” Well, Just What Is a Poem, Anyway?” here. I hope you will enjoy both my performance and this edition of the Poetorium…

photostudio_1584884377621

The Virtual Poetorium April 27, 2021

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Ron Whittle

RON: Hey, hello everybody! Now that everyone has found a seat, it’s time again for me to start the Poetorium show. Believe it or not, this will be the ninth of our pandemic series (the tenth, if you count the special holiday Ho-hoetorium that Paul baked up last December). And speaking of baking, you’ll find Anne Marie Lucci, the Poetorium’s official caterer, really outdid herself this evening with her delicious freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. If you haven’t tried one, you better get one soon before I gobble them all up. So tonight we have as our guest speaker Eugenie Steinman, an amazing poet, all the way from the West Coast. Genie has graced the Poetorium stage before in previous virtual open mics, so if you are a regular, you might remember her. I have no doubt that we’re all going to love her feature!

Once again, I am going to dispense with the rules of the show. I believe we all know what they are by now. And as I usually do, I’m going to kick off the show with one of my own poems…

Between January and March

About the only thing
you can count on in February
is Valentines day
red red roses, a box of chocolates
and twenty-eight days to the month
The weather is iffy
Could be snow 
Could be cold
Hell, it might even rain
The sun only shines
when it’s raining
on the west coast
and the mock laughter
is on the east coast
Winter isn’t over 
not by a long shot
and it has no bearing on 
whoever sees there
shadow and for how long
Winter’s length is only 
determined by the length
of the icicles that
hang on the roof eaves
of airports and the wings
of airplanes readying 
their seasonal flights south
so says the farmer’s almanac
I’ve never known spring
in New England to arrive
until long after February is gone
and the icicles and my
thermal underwear, have been
put away in the closet
for yet another year
We keep the snow shovels out
because you can never trust
the weatherman’s predictions in March
when a dusting could be a foot and a half
of the white stuff

—Ron Whittle (2021)

Okay, Paul, its time to once again for you to do your spiel, the microphone is all yours…

PAUL: Thanks so much, Ron! I think tonight I am going to take a cue from you, and keep it short and sweet, skipping the “Mystery Poet” segment I usually present at this time, so we can hurry up and bring Eugenie Steinman up to the stage for her interview and feature. But before we do, I’d like to let you know a little more about Genie…

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Eugenie Steinman

Eugenie Steinman, originally a native of Brooklyn, New York, but now living in Northern California, is a  poet, former teacher, radio programmer, and the host of both the popular call-in radio program Radio Jail as well as the Poetry and Prose show (part of the Word Weaver radio series) on KPFZ 88.1 FM, Lake County Community Radio in Lakeport, California. Her first book Persimmon: Poems and Recipes, a collection of poems about people, places, and the beyond with corresponding recipes has been reprinted twice (first in 2008, then as an e-book in 2011). Eugenie is currently working on her second, Chinese Apples.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to Eugenie Steinman!

RON: Welcome to the Poetorium stage, Genie! Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. The reason we interview the guest speaker at the beginning of the show is to let our audience get to know them a bit better before we hear their work.  So with that in mind, here is my first question for you tonight … Who is Eugenie Steinman?

EUGENIE: Who am I? Well, I call myself the president of the Bleeding Heart Liberal Party – a joke that kinda describes me. I live alone in the woods here in north California. I am a loner who will go to a party any chance I get. My friends and I agree on one thing. Let’s have fun. And make things better for the needy people, e.g., we make food and have free meals in the park.

RON: Could you please tell us a bit about about Radio Jail, the radio program you host, such as why and how it first got started?

EUGENIE: I have always wanted to help those who need help. I taught poetry in our local schools until I realized that the children who could benefit the most were in our local juvenile hall. That’s where I taught poetry for seven years. I had been a programmer on KPFZ for several years when I heard about a program in Texas where people could call into a jail. I knew I had to do that with my time on the air. Andy Weiss, the Station Master, and I streamed that show. We knew ours would be different. Jail is not a joke and we would not present it that way. With Andy’s support, my next task was to convince our sheriff. After many pleading phone calls, he let it happen as did his successor! This was an impossible dream. It couldn’t really happen and it did. It’s been almost ten years. This show is more meaningful than I could have imagined. Inmates write from jail telling how important the calls are that come in every Sunday from their friends and families. It changes the jail experience for the better. People I meet recognize my voice and thank me. It’s a one way conversation, but they make contact and reassure inmates that they are there for them and love them. Every call has the word love in it. Many calls are from ex-inmates who say they miss them. “I’m doing great there’s lots of work out here. I’m making decent bucks. Call me when you get out.” Or they will even say “I put money on your books” which means inmates can go to the commissary for a treat. I say I am filling a need, my need. I am thankful to be doing Radio Jail. This show can be streamed live every Sunday 6pm-7pm Pacific Time at http://www.KPFZ.org. My son Rob Jaret developed a podcast which can be accessed through Facebook.

RON:  What do you call the type of poetry that you write?

EUGENIE: My poems are spontaneous. I am really not a disciplined person. When I feel a love that I have to share, a poem arrives. For example, one I wrote for Queen Elizabeth which I will include. One I wrote for my sister “To Diane“. I love science and several short poems I hope express that I sometimes have a thought or an idea that I need to share. That comes out in poems I feel are liberating, e.g. “Asana”, “To Mind”. When I found out that Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe actually met, I had to write a poem about what I imagined took place that’s called “Le Rendezvous”. So I guess I call my poetry “spontaneous”. They are inspired by love, liberating ideas, and need to comment. I don’t actually plan to write a poem.

RON: Who are your favorite poets, and why?

EUGENIE: I like Allan Ginsberg for his clear crisp observations, e.g., a bird perched on a cross atop of the roof on the church across from his apartment. I like Robert Frost’s “Mending Fences” because in a class I can use it for interpretation, e.g., “How does Robert Frost feel about fences?” I like e.e. cummings for his good cheer and blatant disregard for capital letters.

RON: What is your favorite poem (this could be one of yours or someone else’s)?

EUGENIE: Rumi’s The Guest House. Taking on the mind, I appreciate that endeavor.

RON: What is your favorite recipe from your book Persimmon: Poems and Recipes?

EUGENIE: My favorite recipe from Persimmon is Cashew Soup. Cashews are the base. My friends love it!

RON: Do you have any other books available?

EUGENIE: I have no other books available yet, but I’m working on Chinese Apples.

RON: Paul, do you have any questions you would like to ask Genie?

PAUL: Yes, thanks, Ron, I do… Genie, how and when did you first get started writing poetry?

EUGENIE: I was about 25 when I wrote my first poem. It was about a woman who came to visit my mom and she seemed like a caring person. I sent it to Seventeen magazine, and they sent me a nice letter, but they didn’t print it.

PAUL: As you probably know, Ron and I definitely consider you as a vital part of our Poetorium family, but do you have another community or group of poets & writers that you belong to back in California, or is writing poetry for you mainly a solitary endeavor?

EUGENIE: I belong to the Writers’ Circle. We meet once a month at the Lake County Arts Council. At first, I attended to recruit writers for my Word Weavers radio show Poetry and Prose. Then I became a participant. It is so much fun! At first, we are given a subject and for ten minutes we write about that. Then people read their work. Only positive criticism is given. I am amazed at the dedication these people have to their writing. They are serious writers who diligently work every day. They make inspiring guests for my show.

PAUL: What do you feel is your primary motivation for writing?

EUGENIE: I think I am motivated by my need to communicate, and by my interest in Buddha and books about him, and a Sutra – the Lankavitsra Sutra.

PAUL: Could you tell us something about your process for writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?

EUGENIE: I have an idea [for the poem] usually while walking in the woods near where I live, or while running like “Time and Space”. The poem is in my head before I write it. “The Third World Rides the Subway” was written on the Subway. I am also motivated by an idea, and when that happens, I have a need to tell people about this thought, e.g,. “The Baby.” Or if I love or admire a person, I have to write a poem about that person, e.g., “The Practically Perfect John Kirby”.

PAUL: I guess my final question of the evening for you, Genie, is do you have any advice for beginning poets?

EUGENIE: I tell a writer to always have a pen and paper without failure. And there is no such thing as writer’s block. Write anything, just write. [Write] a list of your favorite words or simple rhymes. As long as you’re writing, there is no block.

PAUL: Wow! That is great advice! So unless someone in the audience has another question… no?…well then, I guess that concludes our interview for tonight. Genie, you were fantastic! Thank you so much for such thoughtful and engaging  answers. Now, everyone, let us put our hands together and give our featured poet Eugenie Steinman a humongous round of applause while she walks to the podium to present her poetry…

EUGENIE: I was really excited to hear about the meeting [between Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein], and I feel the characterization of Einstein was informative.The Freudian slip in the beginning showed his desire is alive. Yet he had to identify the Reaction in scientific terms first. Well, we know he is an energy freak. He was able to accept no answer, and change what he thought he knew.
And he has students who he cares for…

Le Rendezvous

It’s been said through the ages, you will find
The more beautiful the woman, the more she’ll seek the perfect mind.
Logically Marilyn, beautiful to the core,
Said, “There’s only one man in this whole world who will not be a bore.”
She put In a call to to Einstein, who happily said
”Of course you can come to visit me to get Into my bed…
I mean head, I mean head.”
When Marilyn entered his study, there was Bim Bam Boom all around.
Though Albert was happy to see her, he had to identify the force that was sweeping him off the ground.
He sat down at his table where letters and numbers abound,
But even his favorite formula did nothing but confound.
“I cannot find the answer, nothing will equate,
This must be some kind of an incalculable state.”
He threw away his papers, into the fire went his pen.
He sat down next to Marilyn and said, “This must be the end.
Notify my students. I don’t want to let them hang.
Tell ’em from everything I can gather, it all seems to end with a bang.”

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

Asana

Listen, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve caught the greatest catch.
You have run the distance, you have won the match.
You can go where the mind can’t go, where there is no shadow.
You can go where the mind can’t go,
Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

Buddha

Buddha sat under the enlightenment tree,
and said,”Something is going to happen to me,
And until something does happen to me ,
I won’t eat or sleep, just sit under this tree.
Then all of a sudden, he saw so clearly
What some of us have yet to see,
That the birds and the flowers and all creatures have as much personality
As you, me, and he.
At last, he said, “Something has happened to me.
To think I can see what I could not see.
The people all said, “Who is he?
He says he’s enlightened, who would agree?”
“The earth,” said he.
”And so will the tree.”

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

Time and Space

Running along the lake side
When the redbud blossoms
Where the mallards reside
When Konocti disappears from view
For another curve or two
When the sun is barely over the eastern hill
Where I can see the blackbird’s red wing quill
When the purple iris and the wild flower match
When new duck eggs are about to hatch
Where as I keep running I elongate the place
When summer comes closer as I continue to race.
The earth and I run through space
And time is the measurement of the pace.

— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes*)

*Originally published in the Lake County Record-Bee

Persimmon

One day when I went to see mother to talk about what’s new,
She said, “Look out the window, do you see a garden view?
That lot belongs to Richard. There are apple trees, take what you need.“
Mother looked at Richard, and Richard agreed.
On an afternoon in November, I went there just to be
Among the apples, grapes, and walnuts,
And under the persimmon tree.
Veiled by branches of persimmons looking out from under the tree,
I saw a Garden of Eden surrounding me.
There I tasted an apple,
No snake predicted my doom,
It is truly Eden where there’s not a hint of gloom.

— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

To the Queen

I know she’d be the Queen
If her father had never been King. 

I know by the way she treated the intruder,
So loving. 

I know because she chose Bob Geldof for honoring.

And because she’s against apartheid,
Even if it means sanctioning. 

Her crown does not symbolize riches,
But that humanity is the thing.

I know that she’d be the Queen,
Had she never known a King. 

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

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An Official Letter From Buckingham Palace Sent in Response to Eugenie’s poem “To the Queen”

I was taking a walk when it occurred to me that there may be a shared space between the unborn and those who die. The following poem “The Baby” was never published anywhere, but will be in my book Chinese Apples, another poetry and recipes book…

The Baby

I always wondered where people go when they die.
I ask those who are supposed to know, but they could only opine.
I figured I better go straight down the line
and ask someone who recently came
from a place that may be the same.
To the baby, I said, ”Do you have any recollection
of where you were before your conception?“
She giggled and gurgled and with a face full of drool,
looked at me as though I’d never been to school.
She lifted her arms. I held the little dear
with her cheek next to my cheek, her mouth to my ear.
She said in a voice surprisingly clear,
“I’ve always been here..”
Back in her crib, she gave her mobile a kick.
I said, ”That’s a good trick.”
She said, ”Bye-bye.”

—Eugenie Steinman

PAUL: Thank you ever so much, Genie. That was really fantastic! Everyone, now let’s show our appreciation for her amazing feature, and give a rousing round of applause for Eugenie Steinman!

Okay, it’s now that time once again to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month, in order to keep it fresh, we changed it up a bit, and asked people to send us three separate lines with each starting with the phrase “A Poem Is… “.  The end word of each of their lines also had to rhyme with the words ” tea” or “fee”.  The reason we requested three separate lines was in case we received duplicate or very similar lines and needed to make substitutions. It turned out I had a bit of foresight, because we ended up getting a lot of similar lines using the same end words, for example, six lines ending with the word “free” and two with “Waikiki”. I also decided to edit a few of the lines such as changing “The Poem can…” to “A poem is…”  to keep the lines uniform, or substituting synonyms such as “liberty” and “released from captivity” for “set free”, as well as making other alterations such as merging two short lines into one.  I do apologize for this, but be assured, I used at least one line from every contributor (if not all three). Actually, I am very pleased with the way the poem turned out (and hope you will be too), and want to thank all the contributors including Diane Puterbaugh and her husband Ron (whom Diane told me also “wanted to get in on the act”), Dwayne Szlosek, Joan Erickson, Karen Warinsky, Brad Osborne, Mishelle Goodwin, and Howard J Kogan, along with the others who wish to remain anonymous.

So here now is the finished Poetorium group poem….

Well, Just What Is a Poem, Anyway?

A poem is a melody,  a song to be.
A poem is a dream set free.
A poem is a passageway to liberty.

A poem is often read while sipping tea.
A poem is a little brie, glass of chablis read on my deck in West Tennessee.
A poem is warm bread, we’ll all agree.

A poem is best composed by the sea.
A poem is a word jubilee best read on the beach in Waikiki.
A poem is a force pulling on the human spirit like gravity.

A poem is always giving like a gift when it is given freely.
A poem is being put up and taken down every year like a Christmas tree.
A poem is like putting up a decoration that you’re meant to see.

A poem is pleasing to a large degree.
A poem is a vital respite from the troubles of a harsh reality.
A poem is a window to the soul, or possibly a colloquy.

A poem is often about a memory.
A poem is walking through the woods one day, and seeing this serpent lunge at me.
A poem is literately a literary lock, and the reader’s mind is the key.

A poem is like the scream of a banshee.
A poem is wild words tamed in the poet’s head, then released from captivity.
A poem is dangerous sport like slipping and sliding on only one ski.

A poem is a flower whose best friend is a bee.
A poem is a solitary heart’s soliloquy.
A poem is linguistic calm amidst verbal calamity.

A poem is sometimes written from sorrow, but sometimes from glee.
A poem is often someone’s sole outlet for creativity.
A poem is (for all intents and purposes) a single unit of poetry…

Normally, we would be taking a short intermission at this time in the show, but tonight we are going to do like we did last month and completely skip it. So onward and forward…

Ron will be beginning the virtual open mic in just a few minutes, but first, I’ll be presenting the submissions we received for this month’s Poetorium Writing Challenge, the segment of the Virtual Poetorium in which each month we challenge you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. This month’s challenge was to write some New-Style Twitterature, which are short stories written in 280 characters or less (for our purposes, this includes letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, but not spaces) – the same limit length of the most recent version of a tweet (as an alternative, you could also write Old-Style Twitterature which are just 140 characters or less  which was the length of a tweet before Twitter changed the rules). Like a lot of flash fiction forms, twitterature may or may not have a title.

Unlike the contributions for this month’s group poem, we received very few submissions (just four, including one by myself). The sole example of old-style twitterature was from longtime Poetorium regular, Dwayne Szlosek

The Origin of the American Revolution

The British are coming, the British are coming.
They want to tax my tea for a fee, bad British just wanting my fee..

—Dwayne Szlosek

Brad Osborne kindly sent us some untitled new-style twitterature:

Aoccdrnig to a uinervtisy study, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

—Brad Osborne

Karen Warinsky’s submission was in the new style and with a title:

Turn Around

Broad daylight, 3 p.m., and the second- hand furniture store was closed. Disappointed, walking back to my car a voice said, “Turn around.” “That’s odd,” I thought. Then louder. “TURN AROUND!”

Spinning about I saw a man coming at me, crazy grin on his face. I danced away, kept my purse, and he walked up the hill.

—-Karen Warinsky

And last and least, here is my own humble effort…

An Ever-Present Scent of Artemisia

I’ve heard tales of ghostly creatures, a phantom dog, cat, or even horse, but I believe I’m the first to be haunted by wormwood, an herb. I keep glimpsing those velvety green-grey stalks that grew in my granny’s garden out of the corner of my eye. Each day I wake with that familiar bitter acrid taste on my tongue and a craving for absinthe…

—Paul Szlosek

Thank you so much Karen, Brad, and Dwayne for your submissions and keeping the Poetorium Form Writing Challenge alive!

Now please welcome, Ron Whittle, back to the Poetorium stage so he can host our open mic…

RON: Thanks, Paul! As you probably know, I usually begin the open mic with a poem of own. Tonight is not going to be any different…

Don’t Leave Anything Unattended –
The Stars Are Always Looking
For Souvenirs

I knew better than to share my secret
The moon can never be trusted
Once I told him how beautiful you are!
and every night since the stars
come out, just to take a peek at you
If you listen closely you can
hear them whispering in agreement
with one another
Every once in a while
one or more will shoot on by 
just to get a closer look
and later on, tell their tales
of wonderfulness
Please, I beg of you
Close your curtains at night 
just as a precaution
as they gather in your front yard
while you sleep, just to worship
the universe you walk on

I heard they take photographs
and God only knows what they do with them

—Ron Whittle (2021)

First up on the open mic is Joe Fusco…

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Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE:

The Good-Humor Man
(for Jack McCarthy)

When the Good-Humor ice cream truck drove slowly
by our triple-decker, my Dad would often challenge
my cousin Alex and me.

If we could catch three balls in a row that he would
throw to us in the backyard, he’d buy us ice cream.

He always threw the first ball right at one of us.

The second toss was always difficult to catch
but well within the range of two athletic ten-year-old boys.

He would then launch the third ball over the fence
into our neighbor’s garden or just drop it casually by his feet.

Alex and I would loudly lament the unfairness of the third throw
but Dad would chuckle and say the same words:

“Getting you ready for the real world.”

One Saturday afternoon, my cousin anticipated the third throw
would be a long toss, ran through the neighbor’s fence,
and caught the tennis-ball while sprawled in her garden.

Alex had a toasted-almond ice-cream bar
and I enjoyed a strawberry-shortcake.

Dad never played the three-ball challenge with us again.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

RON: Next up is Dwayne Szlosek…

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Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE: Before I present my own piece,  I’d like to do a poem written by my late mom, Hazel Szlosek:  

I Was a Cat…

I was a cat.
Then I was a rat.
Then I found a bat,
so I can hit the cat
and squish him flat
to stuff him underneath the welcome mat.
Then once I did all that, 
I think I will pay a fee
for some tea,
and that is that…
 
—Hazel Szlosek
 
And now, here is the latest installment of Nine Gun Billy…

Nine Gun Billy #3

It’s the day after. I clarified my killing with the sheriff of Brownwood.
The barkeeper said it was a fair fight. I also found out the owner of the saloon
did not like Lucky or Bison, he was glad that they were both dead.
They never paid for their drinks. They owed 4 dollars and 35 cents to the saloon.
I sold Lucky’s and Bison’s horses and saddles, I took what money
they had between them, it was 45 dollars. I decided to pay the bill
that Lucky and Bison owed. The bartender was grateful.

I started to head back to Frisbee, back to the family ranch.
Along the way, I thought about Bison, a clean cut and shaved man.
A scar across his forehead like if someone tried to cut his head off
sometime ago. He wore a brown derby for a hat, a dusty white shirt,
black pair of pants, and black shoes. He was a thin man, very tall
with  white pearly teeth.  He looked like he was in his early twenties.

It took me 7 days to get back home. Once there, I saw my shed
that did not burn to the ground. I cleaned it out, set up a bed inside to sleep in.
Once I settled in, I knew I had to get ready for a fight by getting good with my pistols.
I had to learn to shoot, my life depended on it. Because once they know I killed
two of their friends, they will be gunning for me…

Nine Gun Billy

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 04\08\2021)

I hope you all like “NINE GUN BILLY”. There is still more to come…

RON: Now please welcome Mishelle Goodwin to the Poetorium podium…

MISHELLE:

The Affair of Butt Kiss and Turkeys

He is bad. I only destroyed his pride and rewind his ego only if I had that ego. It was too late. It was not meant to be watching on the machine, the noise took me as I continued. I kept betraying him. What would he do then? I couldn’t leave him there. I remembered when it was our back yard where we played games, it was so easy until then. I did not really care.

With the statement Boone and “She is too young to have sex” and too young too cheat. Instead she would run off to go to see me, Gallian, instead. To the last chance – a scene. “Breaking the bank” Terrorizing Japan, Tokyo, and China. Instantly is partying with the president , while having sex, and Miami-vice encounters the same hubbub.

Meanwhile there is nothing but Acer is a loser. By breathing fire and putting it out. Acer did not like them; it gave him too much power over them and disturbed him as a person, a whole person who was as a man. You could do wonders just by being yourself and not to worry what someone else did. Crimes were hate crimes just trying to start when I finished. On your own you are impossible to finish and can become impossible but where did you go for help?

But Kick is in charge of the duty roasters. Making jokes all day long for three months makes you feel like giving someone a knuckle-sandwich as well as a total disaster. A joke of the man outside on the porch was living with three blondes that want to play hookie and likes playing hockey. Decides to kill him on sight.

While he is in his study he hears a knocking of his cellar door. It doesn’t say much to start it up. When both mom and Dad can learn how to take two weeks to Paris. Both they love us and the same while some things cannot change. I do love “you don’t I. “ Great news-The program came with the equipment. Telling whether the contents should be used.

He meanwhile is telling about snakes and monks, apes, and other monks can wish them to steal if you do not exchange them all.  A form against what comes within him to win. Sometimes we’re going to earth after the death star puts out a fire so that they won together. Should they go there, Rome it got kicked out and put out a fire.

Jousting and putting them out onto the sales floor every day 9-2 pm. While all of the clothes were on a 50% sale rack. Also not a very good one but it would do. For now anyways. More than likely he said “ Thanks” for putting the padlocked into and shipping them out.  Maybe laying low would work for them and now. U R not scared.

Without realizing a robotics drone bot is the cause of a fifty million heist. As well as the disturbance over the loss of appetite. Always lying in the sun. It was just his style, Torture! How much more can I take before I realize trying to relax? I live for hating her and missing you. Makes you wish that you can “ When hell freezes over”

Over and you’re eating jelly beans black rum good try one . Eating ice cream with a spoon  until it is all gone. Love isn’t enough it never is. I’m just so sick and tired of all of this sex a Clambake. “Pass” then go hungry. and not another word. If your death is not horrible then who is she? Mangled by a car, stubbing your toe, and having a cramp in your foot is your lumbago to cause you to even to look like a slob not lunging around outside.

Like forgetting to look like a crook, ever again. You don’t and can’t give a fuck in this facility this house. or  the other house. Telling them you don’t. “ Want a marshmallow” Watching the news, “It fits our life.” It is our problem. Another dirty rotten Mother F****r that is mistaken for our girl friend. Thursday left and venture always the same and starting to get real?

Finally it’s gone, swearing then saying,

“That is ok she won’t get two there. A turkey in three of them if you had too. Needing to feel better and the other at home. The death at 9am.  Put me in a bad mood or call for my help. Let me help you.”

Although the Queen’s death never went lightly because she never knew him before his own death. Nobody ever told you and I had building 19. Working there I broke my nose, my glasses, and a cheese cake. Oh, Boy, here the cookies that I made for my mom. So don’t take or put my love on a shelf called 6 dollar.

He should have kept his mouth shut. To X’s and O’s. It is not too sweet and you should have kept that lover for yourself. Why? The # 1 reason is revenge over the special person in your life. So sludge here you are. OH; My new wallpaper and you wonder why I blow your brains out and like to see the new me and is even a stupid mother to want to take those bad boys on.

“ Hey, That N****r is Rich!” What will I think of next? He is in the middle of reading a book, cooking supper, and watching the news. He’s a crime. Damn him can’t stay out of trouble for one minute. And if I can’t get it back I’ll be swindled. Be good, no blowing jobs all day today. O.K, Oakey Do key Pops. What do you have in mind? Something I want to do, We’ll meet her somewhere.  Then we can beat him up that’s how.

It doesn’t matter Macbeth. You don’t believe in me at all. If they did I would not be here. Don’t like it do you? Maw, it’s lonely and nothing to do. Only watching T.V., listening to music, cooking, and activities during the day. But that’s like therapy.

I mean what do you do during the day? Like I said. I guess you could say I clean the house. Why? Curious that’s all. OK. talk to you later. I hope you feel better. We don’t need any more accidents. Especially around this time of year. OK, Pops, later. He pulled up in his Vega the one he built himself. Next to me he needed help. I did not respond. I ignored him then it was late. I walked past that home too many times. I did not expect it then. Now I panic. I took out my gun, put it on silent and loaded it repeatedly. Shooting them calling out they octroyed. Thinking to be like they would be one more round alone.

He was just curious making sure that he himself gets that chance some day. He did not respond; it was only a dream. My guns were still and loaded. I had to make it back. Hated leaving them here. After everything they did. The only thing was when i made it back the lights were on and if this was the chance i had i took it. They would not come back; they had a curse and I was going to play it all.

Hating those bastards it was really them where I left it. Dick is just tired, cold, and nowhere it makes me angry. That way some body could know how. Not me. Silence Henry and a foreigner who had come bye saw him the night before last. So how many times does he take the bull and they get the shit. I was wondering why it was fun but did they know how to do anything else.

Just left as taking up a request. Sex huh. What you do best, well your best was never enough. Henry went to jail. Just last night. Dad stopped, bye. I was making a living that was just their style until they met death, maybe a veggie sandwich. Why, Henry fancy meeting you hear. Well it was a painting of Madonna painted in charcoal. Yuta be on my wall. Good luck in everything you do nursing you do? Wild horses drive yah nuts. She got what it takes with a body of a venues demolished. What Cha thought made them myself when he was getting dressed his aunt did that’s how fights started. Actually he figured as much. I was selling what he was buying and that is not all folks. Picked up on my planetoid you need a chance and maybe next time keeping a simply kissed her life back to reality. Anytime danger sounds like giving. Welcome to my place. He doesn’t live like that but he might get you there.

Henry tries crazy. Actually it was ornery like a war on the highway with the gang. As Henry braces himself and he turns his head and slowly keeps driving. Henry gets punched in the face and the patrol car’s officers grab at a bunch of kids when his song comes on the radio. Henry just finished his coffee. Needs to use when he gets home he thinks to himself Get The F T and totally forgets to meet friends and family when he was supposed to. Dragging a body from the lake, “yup you did this why well I had to say an unkind word to the cooks uses dental floss and just because I built my own private bathroom, I just pulled over and he gets a ticket.”

—Mishelle Goodwin

RON: Our next poet will be Diane Puterbaugh…

DIANE: Hi! I am Diane Puterbaugh, and I live in Jackson, Tennessee, where I just planted tomato plants and dahlias while continuing my grandmother’s wishful chant, “Now you dear things grow.”

This poem first appeared in Visitant Lit. in August 2019…

Toast With Jam

Toast with jam is bread with berries.
Browned bread with boiled berries
is toast with jam. Browned bread
with boiled berries is breakfast.
Bread toasted turns brown. Berries
boiled turn brilliant. Toasted brown bread
with brilliant boiled berries is breakfast.

The gold finch is green in the winter.
In the winter the gold finch is a green finch.
A gold finch that is a green finch
in the winter is eating thistle seed.
Thistle seed is breakfast for the gold finch
that is green. My husband asks why
the gold finch is green in the winter.
I say, “Eat your toast with jam.”

—Diane Puterbaugh (originally published in Visitant Lit.)

RON: Next up is Brad Osborne, who was our featured poet last month…

BRAD: 

The Mist

Is it cloud that falls so gently
When mountain top is kissed
Or does it rise from the valley
This cold and haunting mist

All pale shapes and grey shadows now
Sight rendered all but blind
Like whiskey drunk too fast somehow
A fogging of the mind

Unknown fears in every crease
The fears of never knowing
My will cannot command you cease
And keep my fears from growing

Being trapped in ghostly blanket
Suffered your icy chill
Yea sun would come I’d thank it
And temper failing will

If but scant rays could break rampart
And glimmer added hue
A warmth to spirit and to heart
Gained strength to see this through

Should graced light fail and hope abide
My journey will not stop
All my fears must be put aside
If goal the mountain top

So, taunt me now you evil mist
You cruel, sadistic haze
Battle you, my will exist
Earning my brighter days

Set upon me your eerie wrath
You may have chosen me
But I the chooser of my path
Will choose my destiny

—Brad Osborne

RON: Now please welcome Karen Warinsky…

KAREN: This poem was read for the first time on the April 25th edition of Rattle Online and can be viewed on Rattle.com.

Forgotten City

Life returned
to the stubbled hills
to the ancient stones
though archeologists with lithified hearts bewail:
refugees are moving the rocks!

Who cares about refugees?

Syrians,
pommeled and pounded
ten years now
live among the ruins of Byzantine,
ruined themselves.

Nestling against half-walls
rose-pink in the dawn,
they pen their animals,
prop their tents,
hear the wind call their ancestors;
Nefeli, Justus, Theodora, Kadir,
hear it repeat
old glories of the past in this northwest land,
Assad’s poisoned hand not yet touching this final sanctuary
while cement-filled historians and archeologists
fret about the displacement of the marble,
the zahr, the basalt,
the integrity of the site,
as the people maneuver themselves
inside the consequence of war.

Worry about the consequences
of refugees living there,
worry about the integrity of the…….

—Karen Warinsky

RON: The next poet in the open mic tonight is Joan Erickson…

JOAN: This is from my group of poems from A to Z, where every word begins with the same letter…

Environmental Ecological Experiences

Elephants eat enormous entrees.
Eagles encounter environmental elements
especially explosive enemies.

Egrets eat elegantly – effortlessly – easily.
Ethan’s essay eschews environmental
excesses. Esther eats Easter eggs eagerly
every Easter – exposes excuses.

Ellen entertains everybody every-time –
easing energy. Even Esther excels easily –
ecological examples exist.
Eventually everything eases.
Excellent energy exists.

Environmental elements equal efforts –
excellence. Echos envelop everything.
Elbert examines envelopes – expects
evidence – efficiency.

Elizabeth expounds environmental entries
eloquently. Ethel empathizes – expects efforts.
Ezekiel exhausts estuaries. Environmentalists
experience extreme exhibits evermore
expanding expert expertise.

—Joan Erickson

RON: Paul, I think you might want to introduce the next poet yourself…

PAUL: Thank you, Ron. Yes, it would be my pleasure! Please welcome back after several months’ absence from the Poetorium, poet and the love of my life, Ariel Potter!

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Ariel Potter

ARIEL: 

The Nightmare Artist

Every night I dream of brushes
Oozing with oil paint,
Huge canvases and floods of color,
Pigments scratched, dotted, and glazed.
I am entranced by the developing image –
The figures grow and grow until they are wall-size,
Huge women dancing, castles burning,
Sea green waves crashing.
During my sleep, I am an artist.

Every night a malevent figure,
Demonic and chaotic, a familiar unknown 
Comes to me and interrupts my work,
Ruining my efforts. I see the paint fade
And dissolve everytime I touch the palette.
My acrylics become muddy,
The lines become broken and tangled,
The gessoed paper degrades and tears
As if it is my fragile heart itself.
If I can’t make what’s in my mind’s eye,
I will die. Never making a picture again
Is like never eating again.
The flavors of ebony black and enveloping yellow,
Pink hues and whites so clean,
I want to feast upon them like a starving wolf.

Every night I am startled out of sleep
And the frustration chokes me up.
My grief arrives like a haunted package
Delivered by creativity thwarted.
Will I never stand back,
Taking in the tones and shades again?
Let me breath; let me paint.

—Ariel Potter

RON: And our final poet in the open mic tonight is our featured poet from last November – Howard J Kogan…

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Howard J Kogan

HOWARD: Of all the poetic forms, I’m drawn most to dramatic narratives.  Poems you could imagine as scenes in a play.  I think of two Robert Frost poems as examples, The Death of the Hired Man and Home Burial, but, of course, there are many others.

This poem in particular fell into my lap since the incident that forms the kernel of the poem was told to me many years ago when we lived in a rural area of upstate New York.  It’s written as a dialogue between a couple, Lily and her husband Calvin.

Kindness

Cal, you got to shoot me.

Lily, what are you saying?

I’ve been thinking and thinking; it’s the only way.

I’m not shooting anybody; shoot yourself!

I can’t do it; don’t you think I would if I could?

And if I shoot you, what do you suppose they’ll do to me?

I thought of that, you’ll need to shoot yourself next.

You’re talking crazy.  I swear you’ve lost your mind.

I can’t hardly get across a room even with the damn walker and you’re
not far behind.  I see you struggling with your cane, the look on your face
like a man on hot coals.  How long before you can’t walk or drive?
You shouldn’t be driving now.  I thought it out.  You know I’ve always
been the sensible one.

Lily, what brought this on?

The Visiting Nurse come today.  She said she spoke to Dr. Cleary,
they both say it’s time to think about the nursing home.
Of course, I said, No! She got insistent, said it was something we had
to do, and sooner not later.  I said, it’s up to us, isn’t it?
She had the nerve to say, it is today, but the next time either of us
ends up in the hospital, we won’t be let out to anywhere but
the county home.  Her and Dr. Cleary agree we’re not capable
of caring for ourselves.  I couldn’t believe it, her sitting at
my own kitchen table talking to me like I was a child.

It’s come to that?

It’s come to that.  You have to do it.

Why do I have to do it?

It’s a man’s job.  Women have the pain of childbirth.  Killing is men’s work.

Jeez Lily, I believe you mean it.  You could ask your sister, could we
come.

You know I won’t.  It’s not that way between us.  If Nancy hadn’t passed
so young, it’d be different.  A child is different than a sister.

It wouldn’t be different though; you never asked anyone for help, you’re
too proud or too foolish.  I don’t know which.

I’m asking you for help right now though I wish I didn’t have to.

I’d ask kin for help if I had any.

Things are easy to say if there’s no doing them.  I tell you we need to do
this. I won’t see us in a nursing home with those pathetic old people, sitting
there drooling, out of their minds.

It might be better than you expect.

I tell you I don’t want to go where they’ll put us; I want to end it now!

Lily, it’s not something I can do, we’ve been married sixty years.

It’s more like seventy and it’s more than enough.  I’m tired of pain
and now they got me scared to death.  You know I’m right, it’s merciful,
that’s what you said when you put down Patch, the last of the beagles.
The poor thing couldn’t walk and you carried him out back of the barn
and shot him.  In an instant all his pain and troubles were over.
I remember your very words; you said it was a kindness.
How dare you not show me that same kindness!

—Howard J. Kogan

RON: Okay, folks, before we close out the show, Iet’s bring back to the microphone, my co-host and cohort, Paul Szlosek…

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Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Thanks, Ron! Although this poem was written over twenty years ago, it was only published 3 years ago in Contour as part of “the Worcester Tale of Two Cities Poetry Project”:

Klutz

He could barely conceal his astonishment when his mom
revealed his birth was the result of planned parenting,
always figuring his origin was an accident like the rest of his life.

In grade school, the child no one wanted to babysit,
not because he was a mean-spirited hellacious brat
but the source of potential lawsuits, hapless victim
of habitual broken bones and bloody noses.

In high school, voted “Class Klutz: Most Likely to Be
the Epicenter of a Disaster of Global Proportions”.
Avoided by others in hallways, invisible clouds of chaos
swirling around him as he stumbled through corridors.

In the science lab, the forces of entropy flowing
through his fingertips, the glue between molecules disintegrating,
shatterproof beakers shattering with his touch.

Have you ever witnessed such grace as a clumsy boy
slipping on a patch of black ice? Arms flailing, fingers fumbling,
books and balance lost and caught, caught and lost.
His untied sneakers continuously slapping the ground
In a choreography of precision awkwardbatics.

The one lesson life taught him? To keep his distance, to be careful
to never get too close to glass or people (and other breakables),
feeling, fearing that when he leaves this plane of existence,
he’ll take a small chunk of the surrounding universe out with him…

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Contour: A Tale of Two Cities Special Edition)

Before I turn the microphone over to Ron, I just want to thank everyone that participated in tonight’s program including our feature, Eugenie Steinman, and everyone in the virtual open reading as well as the contributors to the group poem and the form writing challenge. You are all amazing and without you, there would be no Poetorium!

And now, back to Ron so he can close up the show…

RON: Well, folks, this is the last poem of the night, and it goes something like this…

The Old Cape Cod Farmhouse Not Far From the Beach

With its old age this old house creaks and groans
with any movement within the scope of its walls
The floorboards the noisiest
when walked upon
The old door hinges squeal and growl
as they are opened or closed
and will challenge the most horrified of minds
in the midnight darkness
Even the old furniture has something to say 
about being sat on
I’m left to wonder if the beauty
of its age is objective or subjective
or waving furiously somewhere in the middle
I’m in the kitchen making friends
with the bottoms of golden brown beer bottles
and this sixty year old church key 
The damp and dusty odor permeates
all that will absorb the ocean’s moisture 
creating that nightmarish scent 
neither a vile stink nor an aromatic scent
The chatty front porch deck announces the arrival
long before the doorbell is rung
While the weather on the other hand 
sings up a storm of pitter-pattering
as the roofs runoff, splashes on the ground
creating a noise 
that is comforting and soothing
My smile is both unconvincing and unnerving 
in my wait for the others to come
I have joined the sand in the hourglass 
unraveling one grain at a time
letting the imagined story 
of this old farmhouse unfold
in my thought filled mind                                                                                 

—Ron Whittle (2021)

As much as I always hate to do these close-outs and say goodbye, it’s that time again.
God bless, and please be safe – we need you back (I’m waving)! 
Until next time that we meet, have a great evening and keep on writing.

Good night, Mrs. Cowart, where ever you are…

My Poem “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” Featured in the “Backstory of a Poem” Series by Christal Rice Cooper…

I am so pleased to announce that my interview with Chrystal Rice Cooper about the creation of my poem “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” has been featured on her blog as part of her  wonderful ongoing series called “BACKSTORY OF THE POEM” (being an uninformed idiot, I just discovered it has already been published for almost a month in the wee hours of this morning). Having interviewed poets myself as part of the Virtual Poetorium, I have to say it was such an honor and a delight to be finally on the other end of the process. You can check out the entire interview along with plenty of relevant photos on her blog here:

http://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com/2021/03/paul-szloseks-history-of-hardtack-in.html

In order to entice you to click on the above link, I’m posting the poem here which was the subject of the interview: “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” that first appeared in Silkworm 12: Survival in 2019 (I’m hoping after reading it, you will be intrigued enough to want to learn more about it’s unusual origin)…

A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)

Centuries ago, twice, thrice, or quadruple baked
rock-like slabs of flour, water, and sometimes salt
known as hardtack, brewis, pilot bread, sea biscuits,
ship’s crackers, (or disparagingly) sheet iron, molar breakers
and worm castles filled the holds of most seafaring vessels
(along with daily rations of beer or rum), sustaining
royal sailors and merchant mariners, pirates and privateers,
whalers and fishermen, sea dogs and old salts,
the hardiest of men, who endured perilous ocean voyages
lasting multiple fortnights crossing the Atlantic
and Pacific through squalls and dead calm,
while I now stand rubber-legged on the bow of a ferry,
clutching a wax paper sleeve of their frail descendants,
unsalted saltines, which I nibble as I sip from a can of flat Coke
in an attempt to quell a tsunami of queasiness in my stomach,
praying to both Neptune and Nabisco that I be allowed
to survive this hour-long excursion across the bay
from Boston Harbor to George’s Island.

—Paul Szlosek (Originally Published in Silkworm 12: Survival)

Thanks so much for reading!

Invented Poetry Forms – The Ziggurat

Illustration by うぃき野郎 on Wikimedia Commons

In honor of Poetry Month, here is another invented poetry form of my own creation (in my own biased opinion, along with the Streetbeatina and the Hodgenelle, probably one of my best), the Ziggurat…

The Ziggurat is a 14-line poem of 4 stanzas. Like the hay(na)ku, it is isoverbal, meaning its lines’ lengths are measured by the number of words instead of syllables or meter (thus my original name for it was the “Isoverbal Sonnet”). The first stanza is two lines of two words a piece, the second is 3 lines of 3 words apiece, the third is 4 lines of 4 words apiece, and the fourth and final is 5 lines of 5 words apiece.  Each stanza uses a different monorhyme, thus the rhyme scheme can be expressed as aa bbb cccc dddd. Also another rule is the title must always consist of just one word.

The form derives it name from its shape when centered on a page, which somewhat resembles a ziggurat, the terraced step pyramid found in ancient Mesopotamia. I am no longer a fan of that style of presentation for a poem, but here is one of my ziggurats in that format so you can get the idea.

Recital

King Kong’s
singing songs

of unrequited love
like a dove
perched high above

the congested city traffic.
His audience – half hick
tourists, half urbanites, photographic
opportunists who laugh, click

snapshots. Their catcalls, derision increased
until crestfallen Kong’s crooning ceased.
Today, all across the Northeast,
headlines proclaim “APE BARITONE – DECEASED!
BAD REVIEWS KILLED THE BEAST!”

The very first and so far the only ziggurat to appear in print is the following which was originally published last year in Star*Line, the Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association  (the editor even included a note explaining that the poem was a ziggurat, a form of my own invention):

Thaumaturgy

To reverse
any curse,

you simply bless
the resulting mess
that occurs, unless

things get really drastic.
Suppose Time becomes elastic
and alternative pasts stick
together like cheap plastic

toys fused by intense heat.
Unique events begin to repeat
themselves. Parallel chronologies collide, compete.
Ain’t any way to defeat
Chaos. My expert advice? Retreat!

Due to the apparent comical nature of its monorhyme, I originally thought that the ziggurat was only suited for light verse and humorous subjects. But after reading “Forget-Me-Not” by John Hodgen (one of my favorite poets), and seeing how masterly he used the monorhyme for great effect in his heart-breaking poem about the death of his brother from cancer, I have had a change of heart. Here are two I wrote about “Death” and “Depression”, probably two of the most serious matters I can think of (please let me know if you feel these two poems work or if the ziggurat should just be reserved for Ogden Nash-style frivolity):

Funereal

No surprise-
everybody dies,

even me, you,
the President too.
We can’t sue,

stop Death by force.
Like a thoroughbred horse,
Life runs its course.
The finish (a source .

of sorrow for our friends)
is certain, although one pretends
it’s not, that it depends
on changeable circumstances, unpredictable trends.
A good story always ends.

Depressive

Not only
The lonely

Suffer the blues.
Even joyous news
Can often confuse

Us make us cry.
Don’t ask me why.
Psychological mysteries that lie
Unexplained aren’t solved by

Scientific process or rational thought.
Melancholy is a battle fought
Within the soul, a shot
Of emotion, cold then hot.
Sometimes we’re happy – sometimes not.

This last one was written many years ago as part of “Poets in the Gallery” project at the Worcester Art Museum during an exhibit on Abstract Art & Expressionism:

Anti-Abstraction

Let’s subtract
the Abstract

from all Fine
Art and redefine
Color and Line

as simply tools meant
to help artists represent
Reality, not to invent
some pretentious, psychologically bent

vision of Heaven or Hell.
Arguments for Abstraction don’t jell.
What? You’re trying to tell
me Pollack (splattering paint pell-mell)
was superior to Norman Rockwell?

So what is your opinion of this form, my friends? Do you agree with me that the ziggurat is one of the best that I have created or did I truly miss the mark this time? I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading about it along with my humble examples today, and that perhaps you will even try the ziggurat yourself. If you do, I can practically guarantee you will have a great deal of fun, and be pleasantly pleased with your results.

An Invitation to Participate in the Virtual Poetorium for April 27th, 2021…

Dear Readers,

I am very pleased to announce that this month, my co-host Ron Whittle and I will be producing our ninth edition of the Virtual Poetorium (the tenth, if you count our special holiday Ho-hoetorium last December) with the one and only Eugenie Steinman (author of Persimmon: Poems and Recipes and popular host of the call-in radio program Radio Jail) as our featured poet. Like we did last month, I’d like to  once again open up this April’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print.

To be part of our virtual open mic, please send us one of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com  by Friday, April 23rd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.

Once again, we also need contributions to this month’s Poetorium Group poem, but to keep it fresh, we are changing it up a bit. To participate this month, please send us three separate lines with each starting with the phrase “A Poem Is… “.  The end word of each line also must rhyme with the words ” tea” or “fee”.  The reason we are requesting three separate lines is in case we receive duplicate or very similar lines and we need to make substitutions, but be assured at least one of your lines (if not all three) will be compiled and included in this month’s Virtual Poem. As always, all contributions will remain anonymous (unless otherwise requested). Like in the open mic, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, April 23rd.

We will also be continuing our monthly writing challenge in which we invite you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form each month. This month’s challenge is to write some New-Style Twitterature, which are short stories written in 280 characters or less (this includes letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, but not spaces) – the same limit length of the most recent version of a tweet (as an alternative, you can also write Old-Style Twitterature which are just 140 characters or less  which was the length of a tweet before Twitter changed the rules). Please send us your best efforts by Friday, April 23rd to be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium.

If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, the writing challenge, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!

One-Year Anniversary Edition of the Virtual Poetorium…

Dear Readers,

Here is the One-Year Anniversary Edition of the Virtual Poetorium from last night reposted from the Poetorium website @ poetorium.home.blog. I want to thank my fellow bloggers Brad Osborne for being our featured poet, and Ken Ronkowitz & Diane Puterbaugh for graciously accepting my invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. I know it’s quite a long read, but I hope you will enjoy it…

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The Virtual Poetorium March 30, 2021

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Ron Whittle

RON: Okay, people, please find your seats now, and we’ll get the Poetorium started.  Well, the biggest news for us is we have lost our venue due to COVID19.  We will have to find a new home when things open back up again.  If anyone has any ideas,  could please you let either Paul or myself know?

I’m going to start with an opening poem as I usually do.  This poem is called “I Am Half the Sea and Half the Storms Gale”.

I Am Half the Sea and Half the Storm’s Gale

I am a brother to the Moon
a tidal child
forever wondering
the call of the rising surf
And being by the sea 
is like an ongoing baptism
where your soul is washed clean
and can roam with the earth’s 
ever rising tides
We may be limited by
the borders of our skin
but there are no borders
barriers, or limits
put on our minds
And I have seen the sea
in ways our eyes can not perceive
where words could neither
define nor explain
and even though my heart
may wander
my soul will always be
one with the sea

— Ron Whittle (Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, USA 2020)

Before I turn this over to Paul,  I hope that all of our followers have managed to stay clear of the COVID19 bug.  If not, I hope you now are over it and safe and sound.

Paul, I know you got some things up your sleeve.  Do you want to take over for now?

PAUL:  Thanks, Ron, I do. Now, normally I would be presenting the “Mystery Poet” segment at this time, but I think we will be dispensing with that portion of the show tonight, perhaps even permanently. What do you think, folks? Is the “Mystery Poet” something that you enjoy, or is it time to give it the old heave-ho? Maybe you would like us to bring back the “Dead Poet Tribute” or do you have another idea for something else for us to do? Please let us know your opinion because we want to make the Poetorium the best poetry show possible, and we need your feedback to do that.

With that being said, I think we really do have a pretty great show for you tonight with a fantastic line-up of poets in our open mic (including someone who traveled all the way from the great State of Tennessee to make their Poetorium debut) and an amazing feature by the fabulous poet and blogger Brad Osborne (some of you may remember Brad from his appearance at our special Virtual Ho-ho-etorium last December). Ron and I will be bringing Brad up to the stage so we can sit down and interview him in just a little bit, but I have a few observations and announcements to make before we do.

First of all, I am proud to announce that tonight marks the one year anniversary of the Virtual Poetorium. Believe it or not, we first launched this virtual version way back in March of last year when the pandemic first began, and we were no longer able to continue the live Poetorium shows. Unbelievably, the number of Virtual Poetoriums have now surpassed the amount of live sessions we have done. Hopefully, we will get back to meeting in person in the very near future, but until then, Ron and I are committed to keep churning out this very unique online poetry show in print. Thank you everyone for your continued participation and support!

Also Ron and I received some great news about Anne Marie Lucci, the Poetorium’s very own official caterer and baker of blond brownies  that we are dying to share with you all. Anne Marie, could you please stand up…we don’t want to embarrass her, but we are so proud and happy to have heard that her poem “The April Fool in Us All” is being published in the baseball-themed commemorative edition of  the Worcester County Poetry Associations irregular anthology series The Issue which will be entitled “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and distributed to every attendee of the opening day game of the Polar Park Worcester Red Sox! So let’s all give her a big hand and be sure to congratulate her when you next talk to her.

And now, I will stop blabbing and get on with the show! As I mentioned earlier this evening, we are so pleased to have the one and only Brad Osborne as our featured poet at the Virtual Poetorium tonight, Before we call him up to the virtual stage to be interviewed, I’d like to tell you a little more about Brad:

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Brad Osborne

Brad Osborne, a highly decorated Marine combat veteran and poet living in Pennsylvania, is a contributing editor and member of The American Poets Society.His poetry has been published in “The Gettysburg Historical Review”, “NY Naval Quarterly”, “Tempest Poetic Society Journal”, and the anthology “Expressions” by The American Poets Society. His works have been featured online by Spillwords Press NYC, The Navy Times, Reader’s Digest, Healthy Living, Meditations, and many others. He was awarded Anna Rabinowitz Prize by the Poet Society of America for 2015, the Silver Medal for Poetry by the Pennsylvania Poetry Review for 2009 and was a finalist for the Buckner Award in Poetry for 2017. Having traveled the world in youth, Brad now resides in the rural beauty of central Pennsylvania, a boon to his two great passions, poetry, and motorcycling. Both of which seem to add all the flair a happy life requires. He is currently editing his first book of poetry “Reticent Ink”, which he hopes to publish soon.

Please welcome to our virtual stage, Brad Osborne!

RON:  Brad, We do this so that we can get to better know all of our guest speakers. It was something that both Paul and I agreed on from the very beginning. Most poetry events never let us get to know the Poet, the man or woman. So we decided it was high time that someone should do this. So with that in mind, here is my first question… Who is Brad Osborne?

BRAD: First, let me thank you both for the honor of attending. I am excited to be among such talented artists. There is not much to tell. I lead simple life where my day job working data maintenance for a national medical provider supports my hobbies and a comfortable lifestyle. I am single and the kids are all grown, so I have a great deal of “me” time. Though my writing consumes a great part of that.

RON: What was it that got you started writing?

BRAD: I have always been enthralled by the written language. My mother was an English teacher who also proofread for Doubleday when I was young, and I grew up in a house that looked like a library. I was completely captivated by the power of the written word. I would say my own writing started as a way of understanding my own thoughts and feelings, as in their articulation I found great insight about who I was, and more importantly, who I wanted to be.

RON: Who are your favorite poets and why?

BRAD: I love Whitman for his blending of the transcendental with overt realism. Maya Angelou for pushing verse into the next century. I also favor Langston Hughes for his ability to evoke a passionate response. But my favorite of all is Dylan Thomas, whom I consider a master of the rhythmic ballad.

RON: If you had one thing to tell aspiring poets to do, what would that be?

BRAD: Read every piece of poetry you find.

RON: What would you call the type of poetry that you write?

BRAD: I would consider most of my works to be classical in style. Often form driven with a great penchant for lyricism. But I have also written in the historical narrative for a few published pieces.

RON: Outside of poetry and blogging, what other interests do you have?

BRAD: I am an avid motorcyclist and a voracious reader. One hobby for when it is sunny out and one for one it is not. Add to that the time I spend writing, and all the “me” time I talked about vanishes quickly. I also find the time to spend with friends and family who are my greatest joy in life.

RON:  Would you please tell us about your family life and where you live?

BRAD: Well, I have already talked about the excitement that is my somewhat monastic life, so let me talk about where I live. I reside in the tiny town of Shiremanstown, a suburb of the capitol Harrisburg in central Pennsylvania. I love it here, as it is only a ten-minute drive to all the amenities a big city can offer, such as theatre, galleries, museums, music, dining, etc. Or ten minutes the other direction and you are in the middle of quiet Amish farmland amongst the beauty of nature. That is what I call having a balanced life.

RON:  Do you ever write any humorous poetry. If so, would you share it with us?

BRAD: I am planning to present a couple of humorous poems tonight. The “Life in Contradiction” is quite lengthy, but I am also including “Poetry” which is shorter and a light-hearted look at our art.

RON: Paul do you have any questions you’d like to ask Brad?

PAUL: Yes, thank you,  Ron. I do… Brad, I realize Ron has already asked you about your favorite poets, but which ones do you feel, if any, has most influenced your own writing?

BRAD: I think Dylan Thomas is a favorite because it was within his poems, at some very early point in reading, that I realized the power of well-written poetry. It was likely the first time I was moved to tears by mere written words. That certainly provoked in me a desire to touch others in a similar way.

PAUL:  As you already know, Brad (but the audience probably does not), we first met on the internet through our perspective blogs. Yours, Commonsensibly Speaking, is such an absolute pleasure to read, filled with such astonishing poetry and thoughtful insights. What inspired you to first start blogging?

BRAD: I think like most artists, I started as way to gauge the strength of my writing. Both editorially, which my early blog posts included, and poetically once my blog moved to be strictly poetic works. I was looking for feedback and criticism to improve my skills. But the sense of community and support made it much more. I was introduced to aspiring poets from all over the world and found such wonderful poetry out there that I may have otherwise never seen. I have had the privilege to collaborate with established poets and mentor young writers finding their voice. I have been refreshed to find that my struggles at writing are not uncommon and never permanent. And it has afforded me the connections to be so greatly honored by being here today.

PAUL: Do you have any expert advice for novices who might like to try own their hand at blogging?

BRAD: I sure do, as I have been at this for some time.

  1. It does not cost anything. My entire blog is free.
  2. Do not be afraid to change direction. My site grew into being exclusively poetry, but even I am not sure what it may grow into next. I have started series and killed series. It is and always will be a work in progress.
  3. As with any web site, most platforms provide a ton of metrics on views, visitors, likes and assorted minutia. Pay them little attention. Take the long view. Only after you have been writing for a number of months can you even begin to start to see trending.
  4. Read other blogs, like their pages, leave comments, ask questions, and otherwise engage with others on the platform. It builds your support community, exposes you to other inspirational writing and increases your exposure.
  5. Last, but most important, be consistent. If you are only going to post infrequently, readers will not make coming to your blog a habit. I have other bloggers, like Paul, that I follow and read every day. Personally, I have had a blog post every day for nearly a year and a half. My readers know they can always find me and that the post will be about poetry. You don’t have to be that committed, but you should be consistent.

PAUL:  One thing we both seem to have in common is a deep, almost passionate interest in poetic forms, which you share with your readers on your blog in your weekly feature “Whittled Words”. What do you feel are the advantages of working in a specific form?

BRAD:  Paul, we do share that inordinate passion for the beauty that is form poetry. Over the course of my “Whittled Word” series, I have visited and written in nearly sixty different forms of poetry thus far. Within each form we find the building blocks of all great poetry, creatively placed to impose tempo, timbre, and tone. From the hendecasyllabic lilt of the Strambotto to the sweet refrains of the Ode. From the Shakespearean siloloqy to the brevity of Hiaku. Everything each of us writes is some creative restructuring of the forms which have proceeded us. I also find the work and challenge of writing to these classic forms is what sharpens my ability to create, regardless of what I am writing.

PAUL:  Are there any poetry forms that you personally prefer to write, and if so, which ones?

BRAD: I would never be able to choose one over another. They all have beautiful frameworks for well-chosen words. But I am a sucker for a good refrain.

PAUL:  Another regular series you have on your blog is “Tuesday Tidbits” in which you share your own original quotes about poetry, writing, and life. I just love these, there are so chock-full with incredible wisdom and insight expressed in such clever ways? Could you  please share with us your process on how you go about writing them?

BRAD: Thank you for mentioning the series, Paul. Readers have certainly enjoyed it each week. I find writing the quotations to be some of the most fun and creative writing I get to do. There is not much of a process. I take the common struggles we all have as writers and deliver them in the same conversational tone as I would if speaking to a friend. I find it a beautiful blend of editorializing and free verse. And as with any writing, that commonality allows the reader to see themselves in the words and thus a connection. I do enjoy finding witty ways to tell them what they already know.

PAUL:  If you don’t mind, Brad, I’d like to conclude this interview with one of your fabulous quotations on poetry or writing. Do you have a favorite one that you could recite for us now?

BRAD: “It is incalculable to determine the number of word combinations in any one language. It is in this infinity where creativity takes hold, and the writer tries to add up all their words and make them equal something.”

Thank you, Ron and Paul, and my humble thanks to everyone here. It has been my great privilege.

RON: You are very welcome, Brad!  So unless someone in the audience has a question… no?…well then, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Brad, thank you so much for a really fantastic and fascinating interview! Now, folks, please give our guest speaker Brad Osborne a huge round of applause as he takes to the podium to present his poetry…

BRAD:

Aboard an Autumn Ship

Though the days grow short
With harvest solstice passed
The changing air still courts
A warmth that seems to last

Greenery remains aloft
As yet to take the plunge
And dapples mountain far as soft
As painter’s well-worn sponge

Snap now fingers of morning air
The frost will be here soon
Fear I loss of sun so fair
Save for the beautiful moon

Oh, the joy of summer days
Remembered to the last
I knew that you could not stay
But have forsaken me too fast

This omen of impending cold
Colored tapestry of new fall
Like seasons growing ever old
You hear the reaper’s call

Bounty, bosom, and harvest shared
Fields readied for their sleep
From winter’s touch may I be spared
The friend in you I keep

But as all seasons come and go
I know you’ll leave me too
Like call of morning rooster’s crow
What else are you to do

In days ‘tween summer’s heat
And winter’s deathly grip
Warm winds fill sailor’s sheet
Aboard an autumn ship

—Brad Osborne

In the Hush

The dawn whispers good morning
Peeking above the mountain covers
Holding the dreams of silent lovers
A childish orb playing timid for show

Reluctantly it rises, the world yawning
And as it crests the peaks of height
Pushing back all trace of night
There I, warmed by the loving glow

It will rise to command the skies
Yet, now in the small of days
A single ray, sets to blaze
The meadow, wildflower rainbow

The reds, the blues, the vibrant hues
Glisten for this morning kiss
A moment of heavenly bliss
Nature in all her beauty bestowed

So, pass each day now, as you must
For etched is well my memory
By such a rare gift given me
In the hush, before sun grows

—Brad Osborne

Life in Contradiction

They say, “Look before you leap”,
A moment to consider cost.
But don’t dare fall asleep,
For “He who hesitates is lost”.

“If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again”, damn it all.
It may be a much kinder friend indeed,
Saying, “Don’t beat your head against a wall”.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”,
No sweeter words will you ever find.
But you will be left to ponder,
Why is “out of sight, out of mind”.

“Two heads are better than one”,
Or, at least, some say that’s true.
But any father would encourage son,“
Paddle your own canoe”.

And, if it true, that “haste makes waste”,
And we should take the time we can.
Then why are we constantly faced,
With the fact, “time waits for no man”.

We’re still learning how the human mind ticks,
And “you’re never too old to learn”.
But, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”,
When just remembering is a concern.

Yes, “a word to the wise is sufficient”,
A meaning so profound and deep.
But it may be considered deficient,
For we all agree that “talk is cheap”.

“Spare the rod, spoil the child”,
If it is obedience that you seek.
But, in the same text is filed,
“Turn the other cheek”.

You should “hitch your wagon to a star”,
Adventure into the something new.
But if you choose to travel that far,
“Don’t bite off more that you can chew”.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”,
Try not to, if you can.
But, if you’re looking for a lover,
Then the “clothes make the man”.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease”,
As if some attention is beholden.
But it is when the noise does cease,
That we remember, “silence is golden”.

“Birds of a feather flock together”,
But don’t let that well detract.
For the tethered wisdom of another,
Would say, “Opposites attract”.

“Winners never quit”,
Keep going until you’re dead.
But, if you’ve had enough of it,
At least, “quit while you’re ahead”.

“Actions speak louder than words”,
On that we can find some accord.
But there are other words I have heard,
“The pen is mightier than the sword”.

“Many hands make light work”,
Woe to the deadly sin of sloth.
But, is that where the real evil lurks,
If “too many cooks spoil the broth”.

“Better safe than sorry”,
Good prudence is explained.
But life is like a safari,
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

And, “it’s not the size of the boat,
But the motion of the ocean”.
Though the idea doesn’t seem to float,
If “the bigger, the better” is a notion.

Acceptance found in the tenet,
“Whatever will be, will be”.
But, “life is what you make of it”,
Unacceptance given by decree.

“Cross your bridges when you come to them”.
Your fears and anxieties will be disarmed.
Lack of preparation may leave you wanting then,
For being “forewarned is forearmed”.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”,
That’s what the farmer had told Roy’s son,
Yet I can say to you with great candor,“
One man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

They say, “The more, the merrier”,
Till the party gets too loud.
And sometimes it is a barrier,
Because “two’s company and three’s a crowd”.

“Seek and ye shall find”,
And as simple is all that.
It somehow brings to mind,
That “curiosity killed the cat”.I

f you want to avoid any social rifts,
“Never look a gift horse in the mouth”.
But, “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”,
Rolling up to the gate in the south.“

The best things in life are free”,
Or, at least, that was someone’s hunch.
They live a different life than me,
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.

“A penny saved is a penny earned”,
Ben Franklin spoke so bullish.
Another lesson that can be learned,
“Penny wise, pound foolish”.

We are told, “Stop and smell the roses”,
Don’t let life pass as a loss.
But as their scent fills our noses,“
A rolling stone gathers no moss”.

They say, “Patience is a virtue”,
Words bordering the sublime.
Yet, just as true, the other view,
“You are never given more time”.

What beautiful notion, “The sky is the limit”,
There is nothing to fear here at all.
But remember with each hill you summit,
“The higher you climb, the farther you fall”.

So, we have made a few mistakes,
You could say, “No one is perfect”.
Then I guess practice is all it takes,
Because “practice makes perfect”.

“The early bird gets the worm”,
No truer words are there than these.
But I can assuredly confirm,
“The second mouse gets the cheese”.

—Brad Osborne

Poetry

It’s not as easy as it looks
To put words down in poetry
They do not tell you in the books
How to rhyme words with ‘poetry’

It is harder than it appears
To find the exact word each time
The struggle through the long years
To find the words that sound alike

To count each meter of writing
Trimming ideas in brevity
For the reader uninviting
If one line has more than another in longevity

The war to find the exact word
The one word that fits perfectly
Like a lonesome singular herd Kurd nerd purred spurred blurred whirred bird
It must fit nest beautifully

So, don’t forget all the hard work
That has gone into writing form
In poetry does beauty lurk
A beauty beyond given norm

If you think stanza falls from sky
If you think there is ease in verse
I beg you to give it a try
I promise it can’t be much worse

—Brad Osborne

Quantum Entanglement

Real connectivity
Quantum relativity
Mechanics of the stars
Tell us who we are

With a bang undone
Particles as one
Distance they are sent
Bound entanglement

Logic holds no clue
Science gives no due
The unison is held
A universal weld

There is dust in you
Birthed when time was new
That endless calls, you see
To the dust in me

Synched by vibration
Regardless their station
Two forever paired
Lives to constant share

It’s how I find your heart
When we are far apart
That tiny celestial trace
Untouched by time and space

—Brad Osborne

The Mist

Is it cloud that falls so gently
When mountain top is kissed
Or does it rise from the valley
This cold and haunting mist

All pale shapes and grey shadows now
Sight rendered all but blind
Like whiskey drunk too fast somehow
A fogging of the mind

Unknown fears in every crease
The fears of never knowing
My will cannot command you cease
And keep my fears from growing

Being trapped in ghostly blanket
Suffered your icy chill
Yea sun would come I’d thank it
And temper failing will

If but scant rays could break rampart
And glimmer added hue
A warmth to spirit and to heart
Gained strength to see this through

Should graced light fail and hope abide
My journey will not stop
All my fears must be put aside
If goal the mountain top

So, taunt me now you evil mist
You cruel, sadistic haze
Battle you, my will exist
Earning my brighter days

Set upon me your eerie wrath
You may have chosen me
But I the chooser of my path
Will choose my destiny

—Brad Osborne

The Whispered

Memories hang heavy
Like Spanish moss draped
Over the gnarled boughs
Weathered by the voice of years
Fed by long forgotten tears
And traced in the wounds
We are all the whispered here

Visions rise like smoke
A pungent scent seen
Stung in blood-shot eyes
Burnt in the sepia lost
Paying the highest cost
And placed within the tombs
We are all the whispered here

Darkness beats the anvil
With a farrier’s skill
Drummed to war
Bodies of the broken
Names left unspoken
Now echoes in the gloom
We are all the whispered here

—Brad Osborne

PAUL: Wow! Thank you, Brad! That was just incredible! Folks, let’s show our appreciation for such an amazing feature by giving a big (virtual) hand for Brad Osborne!

Normally, we would be now taking a short intermission in a few minutes, but tonight we are going to skip that, and keep plowing straight ahead. 

So now once again, we come to one of my favorite segments of the show, the Poetorium group poem. For this month’s poem, which is entitled “Chronology”,  contributors were asked to send us one to six lines with their first line starting with the phrase “In the Year ______”, filling in the blank with any year of their choosing such as “In the Year 374 B.C.” or “In the Year 2525”. The subject of the lines could be about an historical event (either factual or fantastical), a personal incident (real or imagined), or actually anything else they wished. All the contributions received were then compiled in chronological order according to the year to create the following poem (which I think turned out fairly decent):

Chronology (The March 2021 Poetorium Group Poem)

In the year 1477,
William Caxton published Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls”,
thought to be the very first poem in the English language
Printed on a printing press, as well as the introduction of
The concept that Valentines Day was meant for love & lovers.
Both haters of poetry and romance feel it set a bad precedent.

In the year 1793,
Louis the XVI discovered (in spite of whatever Elvis
Might have said) sometimes it ain’t so good to be King.

In the year 1880,
I killed two bad guys in one day.

In the year 1903,
By a Carolina sea,
Man winged free,
Shedding gravity.

In the year 1948,
I lived in the California desert.
Once watched my mother kill a scorpion
As it ran out from under a box.
A big stick she used. 
I marveled at her bravery.

In the year 1962,
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”
Was published. My mother looked
Up at the maple tree and said,
“The robin sings for rain.”

In the year 1969,
We watched “Where the Action Is,
Because it wasn’t at our house.

In the year 1984,
When I read Orwell’s eponymous novel,
Thought Police, Newspeak and Doublethink
Were merely dystopian concepts…My God,
Who would have thought?

In the year 2020,
For the first time in history,
The bank was happy when a masked
Man stepped up to the teller.

In the year 2021,
Judging by the events of this and the past year,
Can we be certain we’ll all still be around
In the year 2022?

Thank you, Bob, Brad, Diane, Dwayne, Howard, Joan, Karen and everyone else who contributed!

Ron will be starting the virtual open mic in just a bit, but first, I’ll be presenting the submissions we received for this month’s Poetorium Writing Challenge, the segment of the Virtual Poetorium in which each month we challenge you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. This month’s challenge was to write a Hay(na)ku, sometimes referred to as “Philippino Haiku”. In case, you are not familiar with the form, it somewhat resembles the haiku in the fact that they both consist of three short lines. But unlike the traditional Japanese form, the hay(na)ku is isoverbal, meaning its lines’ lengths are measured by the number of words instead of syllables. There is one word in the first line, two in the second, and three in the third. Also like haiku, a hay(na)ku doesn’t necessarily have to have a title, but there is no rule against it having one either. Not surprisingly, we received quite a few of both varieties: untitled and titled.

We will start with the untitled ones. Ken Ronkowitz, a Poetorium first-timer (welcome to the Poetorium, Ken!), sent us the following four –

moon
not full
to Earth eyes

—Ken Ronkowitz

daffodils
yellow buds
Don’t rush us!

—Ken Ronkowitz

argument
her fault
but my problem

—Ken Ronkowitz

crocus
first green
then purple hats

—Ken Ronkowitz

Long-time Poetorium regular Karen Warinsky wrote this one –

Coffee
dark, hot —
riles me up.

—Karen Warinsky

Here is another untitled hay(na)ku, this time by Joan Erickson

Man
rides bicycle
sips a soda

—Joan Erickson

Okay, now here are the hay(na)kus with title. I’ll start with my own humble efforts –

Barnyard Memories of My Youth

Pullets
bathing in
basins of earth.

—Paul Szlosek

Oops… My Bad!

Planned
Mistakes are
Accidents on purpose.

—Paul Szlosek

Brad Osborne, tonight’s fabulous featured poet met the challenge with these three –

Ticking

Time
Ticking tacit
Careful counting creeps

—Brad Osborne

Self

Self
Is the
Hollows between events

—Brad Osborne

Campfire

Oak
Hewn sacrifice
Forest stone altar

—Brad Osborne

Robert Eugene Perry also contributed three –

Hidden Meaning

What
was that
you said again?

—Robert Eugene Perry

Floundering

Fishing
for compliments
with baited breath.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Tempus Fugit

Stop
wasting time
it cannot wait.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Last, but not least, here is a lone hay(na)ku by Jonathan Blake

Before the Cold Vermont Rains

Cows 
rise from
the tall grass

—Jonathan Blake

Thank you, Ken, Karen, Brad, Bob, Joan, and Jonathan. You all stepped up and met this month’s writing challenge head-on, and knocked it out of the park!

And now here is the moment at last that everyone has been eagerly waiting for. Please welcome our Master of Ceremonies, Ron Whittle, back to the Poetorium stage so he can finally begin our open mic…

RON: Alright, alright, I’m going to kick off the open mic with a poem of mine…

The Wood as It Turned Out Was Fruitless 

The old floors
of this old house 
tell a tale of its years
of existence and
it speaks to me
with every step
or tiptoed movement
I make
It whispers to me
in every creak and groan
and it owes its story
to every nail that has
released its hold to 
the elements of time,
shrinkage, abuse, and
from every foot that 
has walked across it
It holds within it
a memory of every
mark, scar, or stain
with no explanation
of who, what, or when
We can only guess
and we are left to believe
it had a hard life
Those interested in antiquity
would call it patina
I would be more inclined
to call it wore out
It is what it is
and grew old with me
and the thing with
old floors are they can
be sanded and refinished
they look pretty but still
creak and groan
but with people
when it’s time
they just bury us
pretty much to mostly 
because we are wore out

—Ron Whittle

Okay,  first up on the open mic is Joe Fusco…

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Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE:

The Easter Squirrel

          Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Bunny was drinking very heavily the night before Easter. He drank so much that he passed out at the wheel, crashed his Volkswagen Rabbit into a guard-rail, and broke his left-hind leg.

          Now, the Bunny woke up early next morning with a terrible hangover and feeling very guilty. He knew he had to hide the Easter eggs for all the good and sober boys and girls, but he couldn’t hop from house to house. He was about to drown his guilt in a single-malt scotch when someone knocked on the door of his condo.

          It was his neighbor the Squirrel.

          “What’s up, Bugs,” the Squirrel shouted. “I heard you had a terrible accident!”

          Now, the Bunny knew his neighbor the Squirrel was a real go-getter but somewhat on the forgetful side. He suddenly had a lightbulb of an idea.

          “All the good and sober boys and girls are about to wake up and start to look for their Easter eggs, Mr. Squirrel. I’m afraid they’re going to be very disappointed.”

          “I’ll help you hide the eggs,” the Squirrel shouted.

          So, that morning, the Easter Squirrel scurried from house to house hiding walnuts for all the good and sober boys and girls. He hid walnuts because he had put all the Easter eggs in a safe place then forgot where that safe place was.

          When the parents of the children saw the Easter walnuts, they were
outraged. They raced to the nearest Walmart to buy more jellybeans and chocolate rabbits. In their haste, one of them turned the Easter Squirrel into roadkill.

          “Here’s to our good friend, the Squirrel,” the Bunny shouted as he raised a glass of single-malt scotch at the funeral. “May he not rest in peace!”

—Joe Fusco Jr.

RON: Now please welcome Karen Warinsky…

KAREN:

End of the World

Don’t try to scare me that its the end of the World.
My world has already ended
multiple times,
and started up again,
old sights and sounds changed into
new ones, and familiar folks
disappeared and replaced by others,
souls I didn’t know and wasn’t even looking for.
Jobs have come and gone,
fun has come and gone and come again,
so you can’t scare me with this hand wringing,
this bell clanging, this alarmed message that it will all end!
It has ended, over and over again,
and I have learned to hang on to what’s meaningful
as I hurl through this carnival ride
taking it all in, eating my white cheddar cheese popcorn,
drinking my Miller, sometimes a Guinness,
sometimes a Blue Moon.

—Karen Warinsky (from Gold in Autumn, Human Error Publishing, 2020)

RON: Our next poet will be Diane Puterbaugh.

PAUL: Diane, since this is your first appearance at the Poetorium, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself before you present your poem…

DIANE: I live in Jackson, Tennessee with my husband, cat, and a 4 month old Boxer puppy, so it is a miracle I get anything done, but nonetheless I have had poems in Visitant Lit, Poetry Super Highway and Peeking Cat Literary…

Summer Hair

That crack in the sidewalk near the front door
is part of some economist’s graph of
statistics on the GDP

The robin’s nest on the meter box
was abandoned, the location too
exposed

If you get locked out, there’s a spare key
suffocating in a plastic bag under
the deck

Her bathroom drawer inters
lip balm, hand cream and a silver barrette
still clasping a summer hair

—Diane Puterbaugh (originally published on Poetry Super Highway, December 2018)

RON: Thank you, Diane! Now, everyone, please welcome Mishelle Goodwin to the Poetorium podium…

 MISHELLE:

In the Year of 1982

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been happy. Torn by Love and Vengeances. That now the Flemings are back. Today is March 2021 the 19th the day I could begin again. Now I could do everything right it seems like only yesterday and I still don’t think it’s fun. I don’t love those nutty people she say’s, always trying to impress us. They steal, cause problems all over Gods green earth. While they are killing that same old girl they used to know. To me? So, don’t worry I always run late. She couldn’t find the called Tony PUZO 999. Even though this “Journey” to me was hard and long. Henry’s brother was arrested and some one knew why he pulled over she saw them and she was Psychic ked for a fight. She finally called 911 and now she is going to call the police this is gone far enough. I new they were all there. It was because he was driving along the high way and slimed on the breaks. The chain broke and then it’s axel dropped making the logs fall off the log truck; It was a big semi-truck that Henry drives. He never put any insurance on it. One car turned over it was carrying logs. This was only the start of these situations. “Someone is trying kill me. Fate I said, Hah. She was not paying attention because she did not even like her bratty bat mobile. Well I fix that!
    Well, Mixing Business with pleasure again. How did you put it. Well guess I’ll have a Medium ice coffee, extra cream, two sugars, chocolate, raspberry with coconut, Chocolate MOCHA. and as the logs were rolling off the truck “Well isn’t this nice” A little Ironic don’t you think a little too, Ironic Yah, I really do think. I have a idea Fangs. It was not my car. If I had a car It would not be mine and people would get killed on the expressway and your friends maybe but She doesn’t do it that way. She left. Nobody was there so after checking to see if they were O.K. They left it there. That did not work right Mr. E  who she didn’t trust me it is a little difficult with how often, such and such of this.
    Get this were married. We did not change a thing. He won about $2,000.00 or more playing the lottery and got you out of jail and died the next day. We were both there. So was he. Get this. What is a thief notorious for. What happens to “HERO”. Well they both get one just so you both could be safe  because neither on worked right.in case they don’t. What filthy thing is mud in you eye. It happens all the time. The big cheese is a fart. Fate, if it hand’s off to a crime over where I lived had ever been some one else coffee. I’d say they’d still be there. Kool, but look I’m not grimly but if I know you that I bet he got back out again. I’m Memmi to him. He doesn’t know the truth how I got it right or he would have gotten killed that way. He passed away is what really happened.
    Enough about death. But they did start it with him again. Just because my mother was always busy. Well if my father traveled a lot. He wanted to help some how it aggravates him I have no education and well it’s the truth when that was said. He got into a fight because my son of Jesus and her standards about servants. Well you get it. With why. All I said on the phone was a THIEF. And they go and start with as stupid as some of those people are. The funny thing was that no one ever stayed home but mom. It’s the law. She stayed home with house keepers and maids. Sara and Mary went to sell there paintings. All the boys and Paula  all headed for the beach. Towards the end of the day the kids were there and the wife. Mom went to get the old republic complain why he was there. Or maybe he wasn’t. That Fucken Bastard was Vantuchie and that’s where I was that night. I’m no one that you have ever heard of. In case your wondering.
    He had tongue tied and twisted a sermon and that’s not all he wanted it that way. Could he reposition him not if he can help it. The driver no I’ll try. She likes rock-n-roll and AC-DC. She was there at his funeral she a high priest ❄. Asked me to watch her back. “She never could shake them” Well I won’t believe that. She never reviled the driver. His mother went never to no big white house, with a big back yard, white picked fence. They were to dangerous once. I don’t know who got shot or how. Even if it sits an a big hill and that big hill isn’t big enough to climb. Just because she just got up and left. Never to return. Henry new better than to start trouble. He was trouble enough and he broke my heart. I snuck up on him and shot him. He never stays out of my way.
    Henry said, “The king and I and jokingly enough they do not steal theft or not. I said in a letter. I always thought he’d like working like an employee because your always after money and every once and a while he’d have a minute or to visiting the place. My I thought you had a visitor. The girl who lived in the apartment. Said, the same thing. Possibly to get him to go to the station. When they played together they were Fluffy, Felix, and Sam.  It helps. Sleeping. The police didn’t want to disturb him. Gone from here. He ran over her and right into him moving his money into it because I needed his help
That one day turned into 50,000,000.00.
    They stole your money and credit card.  A_______MESS! Henry Flemings did hear Mr.’s voice. telling him about E.S.P.L.O.R.I.B.E.M.U.N.U.M. From infinity and beyond. Now that’s cleaning up a mess. Striking danger where it is a must. Because that why we drink it here. 

Late
   Last Summer
was the first
    time.

We meet at a cottage
Near that house
that’s a vacation
But trouble for me.

I’d been there before
It would be
twice. There and what
is it?

Why, can’t I stay away
from there.
Was it Marshall’s
No, told
Differently.

Not there 
doing cleaning
When she starts
It goes there all time.

They were blowing.
My mind and I did not
like it!

I’ll like rock-n-roll 
better at least I’ll 
know how to hit.
Blow his mind.
They do all the
time.
“No !”
I want.

Now, 
that worked

Let’s see the summer of 1964.
She was terminally pretty. 
He well was taken.
Couldn’t blame me.

Not with what I can
Blame on me.
He’s a little hard of unhearing.
One more night.

I’m telling my mother!
He hell yah! With the way
you did that.
Somebody had to stop me!
The police I supposed.

Trouble
With my mother
She don’t give 
Swag’s

To be O.K.
I was busy
spying for a fight. Well’
See she was terminally pretty.
.
 Well, she was the best damn 
woman that they’d ever dreamed
who’s motor she always kept clean

Just to taste a sweet life and 
that is what it takes.
Well I’m not blind.
Got what it takes.

    Henry got home and his mom was gone. 
Running late. HIM a little bit of a new year and I did not want to get caught. Paula I said that if you got what it takes keep trying to find Paula. She found Henry’s note.She decided to go to the beach. He followed her. She paid no mind She went to Alder an and well until at least  he got back.

—Mishelle Goodwin

RON: Next up, all the way from California, is Eugenie Steinman…

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Eugenie Steinman

GENIE: Thank you for again asking me to participate in the Poetorium .

I wrote this poem in a meditation. Realizing my mind as separate from me, I was able to acknowledge it and comment about it , hoping to share, inspire others to do the same. This was first published in my book Persimmon: Poems and Recipes in 1996.

To  Mind

You did it you did it 
Will it never end?
You the aggressor I must defend.
I can’t have spontaneous fun
 Amuse you are the constantly attacking one.
Even when I’m on my guard
I always lose the bout.
You and those relationships that give you so much clout.
But someday when I’m not thinking 
Will be the joyous one
And I won’t even stop to notice that the war is won.

—Eugenie Steinman (originally published in Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

RON: Next up is Dwayne Szlosek…

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Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE: Thank you, and I hope you’re all doing well!

Nine Gun Billy 2

This is Billy Gunn. It’s May 16th, 1880.
Some of you may remember that nine men killed
my mother and sister, and burned the Gunn Ranch
down to the ground. That happened on May 1st.

Now I am in a town called Brownwood in eastern Texas.
I hear there is a man there, who is at the Saloon. He is one
of the nine who killed my family. His name was Lucky,
I am about to be the one, is going to change his name to Unlucky.
I enter the saloon at midday, I look around the bar.
There are three men and the barkeep.
I walk up to the bartender with my heart racing.
I will have a beer and a shot of whiskey.
I say the bartender “I am looking for Lucky.”
The owner looks straight at me and nods,
like he was to say he is behind me.

The man’s name is Lucky. A tall man, his hair is dirty
and greasy. Long beard and mustache. A shirt, red in color.
A brown gun belt with blue jeans and with a
pair of brown scuff up and dirty cowboy boots.
A black hat, tattered and worn.

I have no gun to kill Lucky with, I never ever shot a gun before.
I have to get creative about killing him. I see a broken broom handle,
leaning against a post, right next to Lucky. I also see him talking
to his friend at his table, his back to the broken handle.
I am not sure if that man who is talking to Lucky is one of the men
who killed my mother and sister or not,  but i will see if he is
As soon as i kill Lucky with the broom handle.

I finish my beer an shot of whiskey. I thank the keeper, and pay him.
I walk towards Lucky, as if I was leaving. I get up behind him,
and quickly grab the broken broom handle, shoving it through Lucky’s neck.
He gets up quickly from the chair, blood everywhere. I grab his gun
from his holster and shoot Lucky in the back, he falls over to the floor dead.
His friend reaches for his gun. I raise the gun I have, and shoot, killing him.
I found out later it was one of the ones that murdered my family.
So I killed two of them out of the nine, leaving me seven of them to deal with.
Now I have two gun belts and guns now. I want to finish this.

Nine Gun Billy

P.S. The other man’s name was Bison…

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 3\16\2021)

I hope you all liked NINE GUN BILLY. There is more to come…

RON: Now let’s all welcome Howard Kogan…

HOWARD:

For Gustave Flaubert

As if the soul’s fullness didn’t sometimes overflow into the emptiness of metaphors, for no one, ever, can give the exact measure of his needs, his ideas or his sorrows; human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when we want to move the stars to pity.”  —Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary Part 2, Chapter 9, 1856)

We read your words and we are moved
to recognition, to gratitude, and pity too
by words that fail you by what they cannot do.
Yet the very same words have come to us
from another time, another world,
and enthrall us with the spells they cast,
the world they conjure, for our world was built
by your words, the music of your cracked caldron.

Look at the heavens Gustave,
can you see the bears dancing
across the night sky ladling
their pity upon us?

—Howard J Kogan

RON: Okay, next up is Robert Eugene Perry…

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Robert Eugene Perry Reading Mary Oliver at the Poetorium at Starlite Before the Pandemic Began...

BOB: Hello Poetorium! It is exciting to be back after a two month haitus!

The following three short poems were the result of a prompt from Lis McLoughlin regarding local land trusts. The first poem was written next to the French River at Riverside Park, N Grosvenordale, CT which is right down the road from me. Perryville Dam and Pierpont Meadow are both in my hometown of Dudley, MA.

All three poems were recently published in the Honoring Nature anthology, published by Human Error Publishing. It can be purchased here: https://bookshop.org/shop/NatureCulture or on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Honoring-Nature-Anthology-Authors-Festival/dp/1948521490 and other online venues.

Susurration

(in) a language all its own,the river
speaks in susurrus, syllables
sometimes sibilant, soft
slaps of waves over stones,
sweeping sensuously across branches,
swirling into eddies around corners,
speaking in soothing textures,
showing off its splendor –
singing surreptitiously
for those with ears to hear.

—Robert Eugene Perry (originally published in Honoring Nature, Human Error Publishing)

Piermont Meadow

bare feet on the grassy path
spring births unparalleled joy
conduit between worlds
grass gives way to rough needles

tall pines arch
a portal to silence, introspection
whispers weaving through the forest
evergreen slicing my dull senses awake

a stream bends through
marsh grass and cattails
sliding under the path
to the waiting pond

the trail forks, to the right
a wooded path will reach the water
to the left will loop
past the sunning beaver’s dam

cycles, seasons, changes –

the gestation of spring,
dance of summer rhythms,
circles of fall, all lie down
and sleep in winter.

—Robert Eugene Perry (originally published in Honoring Nature, Human Error Publishing)

Conjuntion (Perryville Dam)

This is the sweet spot
where time slows.

The marsh explodes with sound
red wings caw
full throated joy
calling to make life –

a wood drake observes
from the channel
patiently awaiting
his chance to impress.

Slowly moving water
heading for cataracts
                           just downriver

patchwork of greens and browns
new growth sprouts from decay

the river flowing over the dam
background music for the bog
bright red buds on trees
highlighted by overcast skies.

Standing on the bones of my ancestors
I am here, now.

—Robert Eugene Perry (originally published in Honoring Nature, Human Error Publishing)

RON: Our next poet is Jonathan Blake…

JONATHAN:

Poem for the Butterfly Flattened by the Windshield of My Black Tacoma:
Metaphor for the Pandemic of 2020

Like a strange kiss.

Two starved lips pressed to glass.

—Jonathan Blake

RON: And our final poet in the open mic tonight is Joan Erickson…

JOAN: This is an early poem from many trips to Guatemala
to visit my father when he retired there…

 Love One Another

The woman in the marketplace
in Guatemala City puts the apron
in a bag and as she does she moves
her body to the rhythm of the music
coming from her small radio.
She points to the radio,
“You like?” she asks.

“I like,” I say and begin to move
my body. We both add arm movements –
swinging and swaying – she on one side
of the counter and me on the other.

My husband who is waiting looks
the other way. She hands me my apron
and I hand her forty-five quetzales.

“Gracias,” she says and as I walk away
she yells, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I answer.

—Joan Erickson (February 2000)

RON: Okay, people, before I close out the show, I’d like to bring back to the podium, my co-host and fellow co-conspirator Paul Szlosek…

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Paul Szlosek From a Very Long Time Ago (You Can Clearly See the Scar on His Cheek From Being Kicked in the Face by a Neighborhood Horse)…

PAUL: Thanks, Ron! As everybody here probably knows by now, I am a big fan of obscure poetry forms. Tonight I would like to share one with you that you probably never heard of before. It’s called a Quartina, and a variation of its more famous cousin the Sestina, using a set of four end words instead of six. This poem was originally published on the online poetry journal Grand Little Things early last year…

Hated by Horses (A Quartina)

Oh, you were the lucky ones,
chased and bit by neighborhood dogs.
You do not know what it’s like
to be hated by horses.

It’s a social stigma that dogs
me still, never to be liked
by teenaged girls who rode & adored horses
(for me, always the most desirable ones),

who shunned me because I wasn’t liked
by horses, all kind of horses:
Thoroughbreds, Clydesdales, even miniature ones
the size of your average pet dog.

I’ve been chomped & thrown & kicked by horses
all through my life since the age of one.
They despise me as if I was the foreman of a dog
food factory, attacking me viciously like

angels (avenging ones) or feral dogs.
No fury like the hatred of teenaged girls or horses.

—Paul Szlosek (originally published on Grand Little Things)

Before I turn the virtual microphone back over to Ron to close out the show,  Ron and I have a big surprise for everyone. Now, don’t blame me because it was our fearless leader Ron’s idea, but I have taken at least one line from every poem presented tonight, including all seven of Brad’s poems from his feature but not the group poem or the hay(na)kus (I believe there were about twenty poems altogether), to create a Cento, otherwise known as a “Patchwork Poem”. This form which steals lines (ummmm… I mean borrows) from other writers to create a brand new poem goes way back to Roman Times. I guess you can consider it a group poem that you didn’t realize you were contributing to. It probably doesn’t make much sense, but we hope you enjoy it…

First Virtual Poetorium Anniversary Cento

Names left unspoken
Now echoes in the gloom.
We are all the whispered here.
Don’t try to scare me
That its the end of the World

When we are far apart.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been happy.
I can’t have spontaneous fun.
I will have a beer and a shot of whiskey,
Two starved lips pressed to glass.

All the good and sober boys and girls
Add arm movements – swinging and swaying.
Can you see the bears dancing
(Dance of summer rhythms), 
Speaking in soothing textures,

Still clasping a summer hair?
Standing on the bones of my ancestors,
I am here, now, with no explanation,
Forever wondering how to rhyme words.
With ‘poetry’, it is harder than it appears,

Like whiskey drunk too fast somehow.
You do not know what it’s like
Holding the dreams of silent lovers.
I know you’ll leave me too –
Try not to, if you can…

And now, here’s Ronnnnnnnie…

RON: Thanks, Paul. As much as I always hate to do it, it’s time to close out the show. Here is my closing poem…

The Man Who Left Winter’s Mountains for Springtime
Shores Would Never Be Same Again
(Dedicated to My Friend, Richard Fox, Poet)

The spring morning air
was purified
by a chirping choir
that is coming home to nest
from the winter holiday
in the southland
Life is, perpetual motion 
the snow melts
grass grows
and flowers bloom
just as the birds return
And we worship
the warmth of a
restless star in the throws
of a change in seasons
The soft winds announce 
their return with sweet
whispers of spring
in the air which
feeds the fantasies
of the impatient winter
mindset of humans
and animals alike
Somewhere nearby
dandelions are blooming
readying puffs of promise
for another day
in the future and
those of us that can
will dance barefoot
in the green of the grass
in local parks
and neighboring lawns
of plenty
And I can’t help but wonder
Can walks and wading 
on the beach be far off
with sand between toes                                     
and the aroma of suntan lotion
plied to bodies hanging
in the air           

—Ron Whittle (2021)   

Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been my pleasure to hear all of your poetry tonight.
Until next time, be safe and Godspeed!

Invitation to Participate in the One-Year Anniversary Edition of the Virtual Poetorium…

Wow! It seems like it’s been an eternity since the last official Virtual Poetorium three months ago (only two if you count our special holiday Ho-Ho-etorium in December which I posted here on this blog), but I am happy to say that my co-host Ron and I are both back from hiatus, and will be producing a brand new one-year anniversary edition this month (we first started this virtual version of our local open mic poetry last March due to Covid). We are pleased to announce that this month’s featured poet will be someone that most of you readers are probably very familiar with: the fabulous poet, writer, and blogger Brad Osborne. Just like I did with the Ho-Ho-etorium, I’d like to open up this month’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to help us celebrate our anniversary and be a part of our online poetry gathering in print.

To participate in our virtual open mic, please send us one of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com by Friday, March 26th (also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional).

Once again, we also need contributions to the Poetorium Group poem which this month will be tentatively titled “Chronology”. To participate, please send us one to six lines with your first line starting with the phrase “In the Year ____“, filling in the blank with any year of your choosing such as “In the Year 374 B.C.” or “In the Year 2525”. The subject of your lines can be about a historical event (either factual or fantastical), a personal incident (real or imagined), or actually anything else you wish. Also for stylistic reasons, please use the past tense if you are writing about a year prior to 2021, the present tense for the current year, and the future tense for any year afterward. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled in chronological order according to the year to create our group poem which will be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, March 26th.

This month’s Poetorium writing form challenge will be to write a Hay(na)ku, sometimes referred to as “Philippino Haiku”, which I wrote about on this blog way back in February of 2019. In case, you are not familiar with the form, it somewhat resembles the haiku in the fact that they both consist of three short lines. But unlike the traditional Japanese form, the hay(na)ku is isoverbal, meaning its lines’ lengths are measured by the number of words instead of syllables. There is one word in the first line, two in the second, and three in the third. Also like haiku, a hay(na)ku doesn’t necessarily have to have a title, but there is no rule against it having one either.

Here are four examples that I wrote which appeared on my original post on the hay(na)ku:

Secret Identity

Nobody
knows that
I’m not me.

The Ache of Unrequited Love

Hearts
don’t really
break, but bruise.

It Will All Come Out in the Wash…

Dirty
laundry – red
hats, white sheets.

Unrecognized Potential

Sometimes
even chickens
can unexpectedly fly.

Using the above poems as models, please try writing some yourself and send us your best efforts by Friday, March 26th to be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium.

If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, the writing challenge, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading! I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to our special one-year anniversary edition of the Virtual Poetorium!

The Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium For December 31st, 2020

Happy New Years, Everyone!

I want to thank my fellow bloggers Brad Osborne and Corinne Bellocq for graciously accepting my invitation to participate in the following which I hope you will accept as my belated holiday gift to you all…

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Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Good evening, everyone! Hope you all had a delightful Christmas!

Welcome to the very first edition of the Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium! I want to thank all you kind folks who took time away from your hectic holiday schedules to be here tonight. I am sorry to report that I will be assuming hosting duties by my lonesome since my regular Poetorium co-host and cohort Ron Whittle is not able to be with us since both he and his wife have been suffering medical maladies that require surgery. Please keep them both in your hearts and prayers as they go through this very difficult time. Ron, however, being a true trooper did send me a brand new poem that I will be sharing with you all later tonight. Tonight will be a bit different than our usual show since there is no featured poet, interview, mystery poet segment, or writing challenges, but instead we will have two virtual open mics – a regular one before the break and another one afterwards reserved for Christmas and New Year-themed work, and of course, the good old group poem. We will also be suspending the usual one work limit per person for each open mic. Our good friend and last month’s featured poet Howard J. Kogan sent us a note that he would be sitting out tonight’s presentation (hoping to be back with us in January) but graciously suggested the perfect poem for me to kick off our first open mic on this chilly December evening. The following is an excerpt from the wintertime classic by the legendary New England Poet John Greenleaf Whittier – “Snowbound”:

Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl (An Excerpt)

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of grey,
And darkly circled, gave at noon,
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill, no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out…

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores,—
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s— grass for the cows…..

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The grey day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
and whirl dance of the blinding storm,
As zig-zag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingèd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window frame,
and through the glass the clothes-line posts
looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts….

And when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!….

—John Greenleaf Whittier

Now please welcome our very first poet in our first open mic, Joan Erickson, who I understand will be continuing the theme of our opening piece with two wonderful snow poems of her very own…

JOAN:

I Shovel a Path

I shovel a path
for oil-man to fill tank,
use wide shovel – deep snow –
two or three feet.

Maybe the man could walk on top –
I try it – sink – so know he’ll sink
as he drags the hose.

I start shoveling. Dig – lift – throw to one
side – dig – lift – throw to one side.
Stop and rest – lean on shovel.

Gaze at snow covering yard –
field – stone walls. Blue shadows
slant across white surface.

I listen – listen some more – silence –
pure as the snow – and peaceful –
so peaceful.

I dig – lift – throw – too deep to shovel
to the ground – remove layers –
maybe two layers.

Can see the oil tank lid –
keep digging – stop and rest –
study the sky – deep blue
with wisps of clouds
moving slowly.

I dig – lift – throw – move toward
target. I know the man
will be happy.

Start back – shoveling as I go
over my own footprints. Maybe
tomorrow I will come out
and do some more.

But, if the wind is blowing –
if the temperature
drops, if the sun hides,
I will be in the house
playing with these words.

—Joan Erickson (02/23/15)

Red, White, and Blue Day

I hear the snowblower
as it does its job clearing
away snow and ice from
our first big storm.

Sun shines on the snow
on cars parked in view
from my windows.
Their rear red lights glow
in the morning sun.

My neighbor’s car is bright
blue. My dark blue jeep is
parked at the end of this
building and waits with others
to be shoveled off.

When I go to the windows
I can look out at the bright
blue sky.

When I finish this poem
I will stand up and say
good morning to this
red, white, and blue day.

—Joan Erickson (11/26/20)

PAUL: Next up is the one and only Joe Fusco Jr.:

JOE:

Dimensions

When my brother-in-law visits our home,
He immediately starts to fix things.
Sometimes, I have a list prepared,
Sometimes, he looks around, sighs, and improvises.
A bracket for the front- porch door,
A nylon line for the weed- wacker,
The water in my daughter’s Timex watch,
No matter the size, shape, or degree of difficulty,
John will eventually fix it.
He looks at broken things as opportunities to improve the world.
I look at broken things as a colossal pain-in-the-ass
and my brother-in-law a god-like proctologist.
“You’re so one dimensional,” my sister-in-law exclaims
“All you like to do is write funny poetry.”
“That’s not true. I’m three dimensional,”
I reply. “I like to write funny poetry, eat, and screw.”
“Make that two dimensional,” my wife interjects then walks away,
Not revealing which dimension is in need of John’s attention.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: We will now hear from a longtime Poetorium regular, Robert Eugene Perry:

BOB:

Everything Belongs

I am a tree, grown up
twisted and gnarled from
bending backwards towards
the light, having spent
too much time
in shadow.

I am a stream, flowing
hither and yon, picking up
stuff meandering through
strange lands, sometimes singing
often murmuring seeking
an ocean.

I am a cloud, pursuing the heights
blown about and set off course
filled with moisture and vapors
stretched out and dissipated
at times reflecting the colors
of the sun.

I am the Universe, born of stardust
a miracle of contradictions
energy and matter, moving and static
constantly changing and adapting
neither created nor destroyed, only
Being.

—Robert Eugene Perry

PAUL: We missed seeing her last month, but she is back with us tonight. Please welcome to the Ho-Ho-etorium podium, Christine Burlingame:

Christine Burlingame’s Sweet Dog Rocko Warming Himself by the Fire…

CHRISTINE:

Words At War

Words don’t
Simply slip out
Or bewildered me
Like they
Had once
Before.
Certainly
Words wont
Dance for me
Or attempt to
Impress me
Because they
Just can’t
Anymore.
And it’s
Impossible to
Not feel
The heaviness
Impossible
To ignore.
The fight
In my mind
To speak
That wordless
Cognitive dialogue
At war.

—Christine Burlingame

‘Enough’

If you pretend
hard enough
to trust in
the moment
long enough
you might
learn to
let go
just enough.
To once again
be happy enough.
And yes,
it probably
won’t be enough.
But in some way
it will be
better than
because it will finally be
enough.

—Christine Burlingame

PAUL: Alongside the familiar faces of many of our Poetorium regulars in the audience tonight, there may be a couple new ones that you might not recognize. As some of you may or may not know, I have a poetry blog on WordPress, and I decided to extend the invitation to join us tonight to my fellow bloggers and writers there. I am happy to report I received two acceptances, so please welcome, the brilliant blogger and poet Brad Osborne (whose blog Commonsensibly Speaking is one of my personal favorites) trekking all the way from Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania to be with us this evening:

Brad Osborne

BRAD: Can’t think of any opening remarks other than I am grateful and happy to be here amongst the group…

Maiden Voyage

Fifty-two tons, one of the unsinkable ones
The proud flag ship of the White Star Line
With Captain Smith true and a seasoned crew
Left Queenstown for the New York skyline

But the captain didn’t know that the fires below
Were more than the common occurrence
The hull became frail in the miles they sailed
In the end, that would make all the difference

The lookouts worked hard, the only light stars
On a night that was cold and forbidding
But they did not see the iceberg set free
Hidden beneath still seas unforgiving

Then it was too late to avoid their fate
As ghostly ice gouged the hull wide and deep
The stokers knew first, as steel bulkheads burst
They were headed to an eternal sleep

The tragic fail, lifeboats hung at the rail
Hoped salvation that could not be lowered
And as water rushed in, raising panic and din
The North Sea came for what was owed her

What sealed their fate, how light scintillates
As scared signalman flashes passing ship
Distant twinkling light on such a starry night
Not seen as beyond horizon they slipped

The sea it is said, never gives up her dead
Tragic souls are gathered like plunder
But in the demise, saved spirits do rise
As the behemoth slowly slips under

There below the waves, the ones left unsaved
As what they said could never happen did
An icy deep shrine, forgotten to time
Where all the mariner’s failures stay hid

—Brad Osborne

PAUL: Thank you, Brad! I guess that concludes our first open mic tonight. I will close with a couple of poems, but before I do, I’d also would like to mention that Corinne Bellocq who pens the delightful blog Paquerite (a wonderful concoction of words and recipes) also wished to participate but feared the translation from French into English of her work would completely betray her writing (as a quote from Paterson, one of my favorite films about poets, so beautifully expresses “Poetry in translations is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.”) However, she has graciously whipped up a bowl of her heavenly “Rainbow Soup” as her contribution to tonight’s Poet’s Potluck Feast. Mmmmm… I can’t wait for you to try it..

I thought it would be fitting to end with another poem about winter, but I must warn you the following is one of my more downbeat pieces. Like much of my poetry, it is written in an obscure poetic form, in this case, an octameter. If you are not familiar with the form, it was originally invented by Shelley A. Cephas, and is a 16 line poem consisting of two stanzas of eight lines each. Because of the name, one might expect the form to be written in octameter (lines of eight metrical feet), but instead, each line consists of 5 syllables apiece. The rhyme scheme is rather complex – xxabxbxb cxacxcbb (x representing non-rhyming lines). This poem originally appeared online under a slightly different title in the Wolff Poetry Literary Magazine

Season of Disorder

Like a schoolyard fad,
Summer always fades,
leaving you to mourn
the loss of its light.

Please try to ignore
now premature night,
dying greenery,
fields shrouded in white.

Your thoughts, dense as lead,
weigh your spirits down.
Your body’s so worn,
it won’t rise from bed.
Old snow forms black scabs.

All songbirds have fled.
Spring, nowhere in sight,
is late (just for spite).

— Paul Szlosek (originally published in the Wolff Poetry Literary Magazine)

Yikes! That was so darn depressing! On second thought, that would be such a miserable way to close out the first half of what has been so far a pleasant poetry show filled with good cheer. Besides it doesn’t seem right not to end a Poetorium open mic without a poem by Ron Whittle. So instead, here is Ron’s poem which I promised I would share with you earlier…

The Moon Interviewing the Sun for
the Sunday Edition of the Newspaper

“So tell me
what do you remember
about the Big Bang?”

“Well, to be truthful
I don’t remember much,
but I do remember
it being cold and dark
and I lit a match
to see what was going on
and whooosh…
everything blew up in flames
and it’s been that way
ever since.
Kinda like lighting
the barbecue grill,
ya know what I mean.
Which reminds me,
when is the next time
a cow is going to jump
over you?
We haven’t had any
steaks or ribs up here
in a long time.
Ya know, I lost my beard
and eye brows the last time
I struck a match.
I won’t do that again.
You know it was kinda like whooosh…
and this whole side of the universe
smells like burnt hair.
You know
I get a kick out of your people-
they talk about solar flares
like they’re something special.
Hell, its just excess gas.
Here, pull my finger,
I’ll show you…”

Unfortunately this is where the interview end
and the Moon was shot into a new orbit.

—Ron Whittle

Well, folks, that is the end of our first open mic of the evening. We’ll be taking a longer than usual intermission before we come back and I present tonight’s group Christmas poem as well as the Secret Surrealist Santa Lists I asked people to submit. Then we’ll start the second virtual open mic, this one with a holiday theme. Now, I, being very fond of past holiday poetry gatherings (like the wonderful Jingle Mingle that our local Worcester area poet Anne Marie Lucci hosted each year at her Streetbeat poetry venue which the Ho-Ho-etorium is meant as a tribute to) and since some of my favorite memories of these gatherings involved food (who in the Worcester poetry community could forget Anne Marie’s blonde brownies at the Jingle Mingle or my mom’s chocolate chip cookies at the Poet’s Parlor?), I decided to replace the usual virtual vendor’s table with a virtual poet’s banquet table and asked people to contribute some imaginary food for a virtual poet’s potluck. So please sample all the delicacies you kind people have brought in and we will be back in a short while…

Intermission Begins

The Ho-Ho-etorium Imaginary Poet’s Potluck Banquet Table

Photo by Paul Szlosek

Dollar Store Skordalia brought by Paul Szlosek

Instead of what appears to be the mandatory bowl of hummus and pita bread served on the refreshment table of every gathering of poets from the beginning of time, here is a delicious substitute: skordalia, a Greek garlic dip or spread traditionally made by combining crushed garlic with a thick base such as day-old bread or pureed potatoes, lots of olive oil and citrus–either a wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice that usually takes hours to prepare, but this version is almost as good and can be whipped up in mere minutes with every single ingredient purchased at your local Dollar Tree, Dollar General, or Family Dollar...

Ingredients:
one cup of mashed potatoes (prepared according to the directions on a package of either Buttery Homestyle or Betty Crocker Instant Mashed Potatoes)
garlic powder
lemon juice from concentrate
olive & vegetable oil blend
dash of salt
cold water

Directions:
Place mashed potatoes in serving bowl, then stir in lemon juice, oil, salt, and garlic powder a little at a time to desired taste, then slowly add the cold water until the dip is the consistency of hummus. Drizzle with a little oil, dust with paprika and dried parsley or cilantro flakes (for an optional dash of holiday red and green), and serve with scoopable-shaped corn chips.

Velouté D’Arc-En-Ciel (Rainbow Cream Soup)* brought by Corinne Bellocq

*For a photograph of this scrumptious dish and the original recipe in French, please click here.

Photo by http://www.goodfreephotos.com

Hamburger Chilli with Potato Rolls and Shredded Cheddar Cheese Brought by Dwayne Szlosek

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Pexels.com

Champagne brought by Brad Osborne

Ingredients:
1 – Bushel of the finest grapes

1- Glass bottle with cork

1 – Great amount of patience

Directions:
Squeeze the grapes into the bottle. Apply patience liberally. Wait for the magic to happen, then consume with vigor.

A toast – “May your words always be effervescent and sparkle with life when they are decanted and shared!”

Swedish Christmas Glogg and Swedish Cookies (Made in the Shape
of Snowmen) Brought by Joan Erickson

“Making glogg was a tradition in my husband, Bob’s, family. The alcohol and spices were heated in a pan and when ready was lit with a match – then putting the cover on. Strong stuff -could only have a sip and feel it burn as it went down.”

—Joan Erickson

Ugly Cookies Brought by Chrissy Burlingame

‘Ugly Cookies’

We painted faces
of icing and
sprinkled
colored sugar
on our misshaped cookies.
A disfigured attempt at
cookie decorating
and feeling better.
A reflection of
our insides out.
We hadn’t a future
in confectionery careers
But as
inexperienced decorators
we smiled
and laughed nonetheless.
Such failures were
never meant to
be gifted—
They were the punchline
to our winter afternoon
well spent.

—Christine Burlingame

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Intermission Ends

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PAUL: Oh my goodness, I am stuffed and a bit woozy from all that champagne and glogg! Everybody, please find a seat and I’ll kick off the second half of the evening with the Christmas group poem.

As you might recall, I requested that people send in one to six lines starting with the phrase “Christmas is… ” to be be compiled into tonight’s group poem. I also gave everyone the option of having your name listed as an contributor or to remain anonymous. Only Joan Erickson, Robert Eugene Perry, Dwayne Szlosek, and Brad Osborne gave me permission to use their names, so the identities all the other authors of the following poem will stay secret, fittingly for this time of year, like a Secret Santa:

Christmas Is…

Christmas is the eyes of a child.

Christmas is the twinkle of lights in children’s eyes.

Christmas is the fresh scent of pine.

Christmas is giving and learning to receive
suspending doubt, willing to believe
letting go of resentments
making room for Presence
allows the Mystery within to conceive.

Christmas is fresh snowflakes on eyelashes.

Christmas is a sugar rush mixed with caffeine.

Christmas is laying wide-eyed in bed with a thumping hear of anticipation.

Christmas is a visit from Santa.
Time to roll out the red carpet,
time to hang up the stockings,
time to get ready for fun.
Time for miracles
under the sun

Christmas is forgetting what you don’t have and being thankful for what you do.

Christmas is a caring smile.

Christmas is missing family.

Christmas is winter snow, and when the wind blows.
It feels so cold it is time to start a fire.
And to hear it’s crackle with it’s orange glow.
And with it’s glow. The cold comes with a cup of hot chocolate.
Waiting for old saint nick, to warm his bones by the fire.
And kiddy’s i am not delivering christmas presents this year. HO, HO, HO..

Christmas is lighting the night.

Christmas is remembering kindness.

Christmas is being our best…

And with that last line, I need to concur that all the contributors really are the best! Thank you so much!

And now what Christmas gathering would be complete without the tradition of gift-giving? So to add the traditional present-giving element to our imaginary holiday gathering, I proposed a variation on the old surrealist game The Time Travelers’ Potlatch. In case you are not familiar with it (by the way, a potlatch is a gift-giving competition practiced in certain cultures), the game is played by having each person describe the gift that they would present to various historical, mythical, or fictional figures of their choice on the occasion of meeting them. Our variation was to be the Secret Surrealist Santa List in which we could all list up to six historical, mythical, or fictional figures and the Xmas presents we would give them if we were their surreal Secret Santas. Now only two people submitted lists beside myself, but I was tickled pink by them and I sure you will be too:

Chrissy Burlingame’s Secret Surrealist Santa List

For Sylvia Plath, a white candle in a bell jar.
For Revenge, Jello, a dish best served cold.
For Edgar Allen Poe, his truck’s title.
For Every Mole, tiny magnifying glasses.

Brad Osborne’s Secret Surrealist Santa List

For Wile E. Coyote, a membership to Amazon Prime.
For Pontius Pilot, a new set of hand towels.
For Pheidippides, a Nike endorsement.
For Van Gogh, one Airpod Pro.
For Santa’s reindeer, Dasher, just one year of not having to look at Rudolph’s ass all night!

Paul Szlosek’s Secret Surrealist Santa List

For Alexander Hamilton, a kevlar vest and frockcoat.
For Lois Lane, lead-lined lingerie.
For Sherlock Holmes, an Occam’s safety razor and shaving brush set.
For Danny Pudi, good coffee and warm socks.
For Robert Johnson, a textbook on contract law.
For Mankind, a digital doomsday clock with snooze alarm.

Thank you, Brad and Chrissy, for your generosity and incredible imaginations! Well done, my friends!

Okay, we can now start the second open mic. Please remember, folks, your poem or story needs to have either a Christmas, New Year, or general holiday theme…

I actually had some great Christmas poems to open with including one about my one Christmas spent in South Carolina and a patchwork poem consisting of solely lines from Christmas carols, but of course I can’t find them! So I am going to have to cheat and convert an existing poem to a Christmas one. Like all my poems I will be sharing with you tonight, it is written in an obscure poetry form, this one being a biolet, but this time I won’t bother with the boring rules of writing one (and just let you puzzle it out for yourself from my example):

A Frozen Yuletide Memory

On a chilly afternoon in late December,
I stood at the kitchen window and watched it snow,
And although that was over fifty years ago,
For some unknown reason I can still remember
I stood at the kitchen window and watched it snow
On a chilly afternoon in late December.

—Paul Szlosek

Now please welcome back to the podium, Joe Fusco Jr….

JOE:

Our Neighbor

Our neighbor dresses in camouflage,
Straps himself in the chestnut tree that borders our backyards,
Waits for deer to prance by.

We live in Worcester, the Big City,
Concrete and asphalt,
Squirrels, an occasional raccoon if you’re not careful with the garbage,
Ornery wasps but the only deer are plastic and pull a bearded fat guy around,
Also plastic, two houses down most of December.

Our neighbor smokes grass while he waits in the chestnut tree.
He used to teach welding at the vocational school.
He used to play electric guitar for a Dead-like band.

Sometimes, his nine-year-old, also in camouflage, keeps him company.
If you look through the window of their family room,
You’ll see plastic antlers hanging from the fireplace.

Our neighbor waits like Godot in the chestnut tree.
The city has lowered our property assessment three times.
We instruct the kids to only use the front door,
Remember he has a night-scope and a bong,
Never ever prance.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Since the Ho-Ho-etorium is a celebration of Christmas and Christmas truly is family, please welcome to the virtual stage a dear friend of the Poetorium and my actual cousin, Dwayne Szlosek…

Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE: Good evening, everyone! Here are my Christmas Poems…

I Think I Might, I Think I May…

I think I might, I think I may.
I think, i think, i’ll stay,
To spend Christmas day with you.
I think i might, i think i may.
I think, i think, I’ll stay with you.
Thank you.
I will stay all day, on Christmas day.
I think I might, I think i may.
I think, i think, i will drink eggnog,
an open christmas presents on this day.
I think i might, i think i may.
I think, i think, i will stay for dinner,
an eat this wonderful meal with you.
An join you for that glass of wine, Caroline.
I think i might, i think i may.
I think, i think, i will stay,
the whole night with you.
The day after.
A month after.
The year after.
An the rest of my life after, with you.
And forever more….

—Dwayne Szlosek (12\14\2019)

Christmas With Everyone..

Christmas time of the year is for all of us
To share our joy with every girl and boy.
Christmas time is so near,
It’s time to share our thoughts and prayers
With you and everyone here.
Let them know I am thinking of them,
And all your well being.
I know you are thinking about me as well.
Because we are family in some way,
Why we are part of a family
Or we are friends or even best friends.
The joy of christmas will bring all of us
Together, on the Lord’s birthday.
To give thanks to him for our lives
And to the people we meet,
That will bring us joy.
I thank you all.
And a merry Christmas,
And a happy new beginning for the New Year…

—Dwayne Szlosek (12\7\2020)

Thank you! Hope you all had a great Christmas and will have a fantastic New Year!

PAUL: Now returning to the podium, is Joan Erickson with her Christmas poem…

JOAN:

Christmas Present

My oldest Granddaughter,
Jennifer, gave me a cat
for Christmas – a wooden cat –
almost the size of a real cat.
It now sits on my harvest table.

It has orange and gray tiger stripes
and has white on its nose and paws
and on the end of its tail. It is
a wooden puzzle made of large
pieces – easy to take apart and
put together.

I have named this cat ‘Puzzles.’ She
is very good – doesn’t scratch the
furniture and doesn’t need a litter box
and if I get bored during tomorrow’s
big snow storm, I can take her apart
and put her back together again and
not one scratch will I get.

I love my new cat.
Thank you, Jennifer.

—Joan Erickson (01/03/2018)

PAUL: And now once again, Robert Eugene Perry…

BOB:

Reflecting on Christmas

Before recovery
Christmas was painful.

The coming of the giver of Life
only highlighted
my own self-centeredness.

I hid my face
in a barrel of Whiskey
hoping I would drown,

till one day He came down,
gently lifted my head and said:
I can raise you from the dead.

Do you wish to be made well?

Those words broke
the sodden spell –
shattered

the gates of hell
and I whispered
yes.

—Robert Eugene Perry

And now we will have Brad Osborne with his Christmas poem…

BRAD:

‘Twas the Night Before Covid Christmas…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, 2020 the year,
The days were blurring with pandemic fear;
The face masks were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that gifted vaccine soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Thoughts of missing friends danced in their heads;
And mamma in her sweats and I in my briefs,
Had just settled down for some needed relief,

The year had been one like none could expect,
And holidays came with family to protect;
So, Nana and Pop wouldn’t be here this year,
But a video call would let them feel near;

Santa drove the smiling van instead of a sleigh,
And lucky we are to have gifts Christmas day;
The best gift from one generation to another,
When missing you meant we loved each other,

Dawn will still hold the wonder of little eyes,
As eager children bid a much too early rise;
And I offer but one wish as I turn out the light
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!

–Brad Osborne

PAUL: Last but not least on on our Holiday open mic, for the very first time tonight, someone in the last few months who has been a wonderful and loyal supporter of the Poetorium -Mishelle Goodwin..

MISHELLE; Thank you! Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Here is a poem I just jotted down from the top of my head. It’s called “MY CHRISTMAS”. Hope you enjoy it!

My Christmas

At Christmas time
we laugh
we sing
and jolly
where we where
that night

We celebrate Christmas
with a Christmas meal. We open our gifts
play with new and old toys.

Empty our stalking’s
that are hung by our chimney with care.
Keeping warm by the fire

The Christmas tree is up
With gifts galore and sing Christmas carols
all night long
I hung up my coat

Upon the hooks
In the hallway
Black Leather Coat
tassels and buttons
That shine and glow

Every year my Christmas Gifts
Are opened and clothes all hung
In my closet with care.
While all my toys are stored away.

Because love has no boundaries
That this year and every year
We are kind to who we meet
And I lost some along the way.

—Mishelle Goodwin

PAUL: WOW! Thank you everyone! You were just all amazing. Your kindness, support, and poetry has been the best Christmas present I could ever wish for!

I am going to close out the show with a poem of mine that contains a callback to the first poem I read tonight (see if you can catch it). By the way, the poem is an hodgenelle, a poetry form I created inspired by one of my poetry idols, John Hodgen:

I’m Not Santa

It doesn’t mean I’m Santa just because I wear a white beard,
It seems I can’t even walk down the street without being jeered
With Ho Ho Ho’s by nasty little brats, their faces smeared
With jam. Adults even worse, drunk, voices slurred, all-teared
Up, whining I never brought them a certain doll or multi-geared
Erector set. What would they do if I turned to them and sneered
“It doesn’t mean I’m Santa just because I wear a white beard,

And don’t try to climb upon my lap – that would just be weird!”?
My facial hair is real, I’m no mall Santa with fake whiskers adhered
To my cheeks with spirit gum. It might be easier if I sheared
The whole thing off, but I won’t. I have persevered,
Endured stupid jokes about reindeer and elves, silently steered
Past taunting teens. St. Nick’s a figure, not to be mocked, but feared.
It doesn’t mean I’m Santa just because I wear a white beard,

Yet all my tormentors, one day, might find themselves speared
With sprigs of holly through their hearts, or basted and seared
Over an open flame like a Christmas goose, or simply disappeared
Down a chimney. So now that we have this matter all cleared,
Please don’t Santa me anymore! I’d much rather be King Leared,
(Or from all you poets) Walt Whitmanned or John Greenleaf Whittiered.
It doesn’t mean I’m Santa just because I wear a white beard.

–Paul (“I’m Not Santa“) Szlosek

Wow, I’m getting really groggy (It must be all the glogg)! It’s been a rough year for all for us, but you, my dearest friends, made it bearable for me with all your kindness, support, and poetry! So thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hopefully Ron and I will see you all in January ( if I don’t end up hibernating like a polar bear – pardon the poor pun, but I did say “bearable”). Please keep Ron and his wife in your prayers and hearts, stay safe and healthy, and have the most fantastic, stupendous, and amazing New Year humanly possible!

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