Open reading

Tonight we will host an open poetry and fiction reading as part of the “Surreal Arizona” art exhibit in Mesa’s OneOhOne gallery on Main Street and McDonald.  Sign-up starts at 6 p.m.  I hope the readers will have a better experience than the fall I describe below!

Standing under the spotlight, in the applause
of my unsuspecting audience,
I adjust the microphone, my glasses, blinded,
preparing to read my published poem.
I know it fits no better than an outgrown
prom dress and is just as inappropriate,
but somehow, I can’t seem to stop myself.
It’s half Sci-Fi and half MFA, but mostly MFA:
“Paul Claudel Meets Marilyn Monroe
at the Railway Station.” My voice reads the
words printed in a miniscule font
that seemed legible in 1997, polished
words that now seem haphazard,
impenetrable, and my mind takes off.
I can’t believe I worked a second job
to learn to write something no one
understands, not even me! Still, my voice
goes on… “Paul Claudel’s rosary beads
dropped onto the railroad track,
his crocodile valise full of poems…
his spectacles… propriety… until
he was altogether nude…”
It’s one of those nightmares
when you think the audience
imagines you naked, but you keep
going because the last lines
beckon far ahead, like a lighthouse
at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

It feels wonderful to leave the stage.
This is my tribute to open poetry readings, the way they strip away all our illusions, and the wonderful audiences who applaud anyway.

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