To the Community of Poets

“For every atom belonging to me as good
belongs to you…”

The Barbaric Yawp Open Mic Reading Series is a monthly event, curated and hosted by Christopher Title, and held in St. Paul, the twin sister of Minneapolis.

Tonight was the 10th Anniversary of the series, and I gotta say – we all did it up right tonight. What a blast! Energy levels were high, the poetry and stories were fresh and edgy and fun. We had a *great time.

All the performers read their own work, and then each took one of the stanzas of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

“I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips
and gently turn’d over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and
plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart…”

I took my place at the mic tonight, and I had verse 19 from Whitman’s “Song.”

19
This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;

There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair,

This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning,
This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,

This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.

Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?

Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the side of a rock has.

Do you take it I would astonish?

Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering through the woods?

Do I astonish more than they?

This hour I tell things in confidence,

I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

But first I read a piece that I wrote in Wendy Brown-Baez’s most recent poetry workshop. Wendy’s a really good teacher – I’ve learned so much from her. So, I’ll share here the unexpurgated version of the poem I read tonight at the celebration.

To the Community of Poets

Praise to the community of poets!
The writers, toiling away,
creating pictures in words,
crafted from the weavings and leavings of the Muse.
They are like lyrical ants,
antennae pressing into each letter,
every word a grain of wheat
gathered and arranged
and offered up.
Plopping ladles of alphabet soup into each bowl,
the reader tastes,
and like unfolding clouds of incense,
wonder rises like steam from the plate.

Praise to the community of poets!

On social media, in meeting rooms –
a gathering storm of wordsmiths
sits around restaurant tables,
sprawls on couches and pillows and chairs,
writing and laughter rising and falling,
and tears in turn.

Praise to the community of poets!
Praise to them
and these hearths of faces and keyboards too,
crackling with villanelles,
and sonnets rising up like charmed snakes from the midst of them.
Shoulder to shoulder they seek for the perfect word
to hymn of love gained and lost,
of new cars skimming along streets,
of rusty cars left behind,
of weevils teeming in bags of spilled grain
of mountains thundering with trees,
of children birthed, grown and gone.

Praise to the community of poets!
Praise to the giddy company of poets
Who learnt the trick of breaking into the places where fire is stored.
Like wild monks, they guzzle the wine there,
and then bring some back to spike the punch
with words that slip through the barricades
around the souls of the sleepers,
bringing hearts to heal
and beat and throb with the perfection of the world
as it is –
only better.

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