Carving Meaning from Seawater: “An Existentialist Children’s Story”

I don’t have much to say. It’s a pretty sleek, accessible poem, one that I could easily wreck by saying too much about it here.

I like this poem. I’ve emailed it to friends before. It’s one of my favorites from my chapbook Breach Birth. It was the closing poem at my feature on January 27. I’m somewhat surprised that I didn’t trot it out at readings sooner than October 11, 2011, when I read it at the Marina Pacifica Barnes & Noble in Long Beach, at G. Murray Thomas‘ monthly reading.

I wrote “An Existentialist Children’s Story” on August 7, 2009, a few days after “Fatherhood” and a week before the first draft of “Island Living.” It describes the plight of the assistant to the social director for the cruise ship S.S. Omnipotent after it has sunk. She floats alone in the ocean, clinging to a piñata filled with health food. She will die. How she determines to go about it is what the poem ends up being about. I don’t know what I was thinking. But I like it.

“An Existentialist Children’s Story” finally received an acceptance on March 10, 2010.  It first appeared in REAL: Regarding Arts & Letters Volume 34.2 (Spring/Summer 2010).

If you want to hear me recite it in a cheesy tone of voice, click here.

Notes on a Carnival Reading – Exhibit [A] Gallery – 28 January 2012

Okay, first of all, although the similar name and the taking place at Exhibit [A] Gallery (555 Pine St., Long Beach), this event was not tied to After the Carnival, Sarah Miller’s monthly reading that she has run since November 2010. Tonight was the Volume 1 launch reading for Carnival, an online literary magazine edited by Shannon Phillips and Jose Miguel Diego. Shannon was there to distribute baked goods and introduce each reader, although the host (“guest pilot”) technically was Kevin Lee. Also overseeing the event less directly was Evan Patrick Kelly, who owns and runs Exhibit [A], a Vayden Roi gallery.

Shannon started Carnival after she received her MFA from Cal State-Long Beach in 2008. Within the next couple of years, she bought a house, got married, had a child, and became decreasingly involved with poetry. Carnival has given her the chance to engage with her creative self again. She gave shout-outs to “Dr. Locklin” (Gerald Locklin) and Tony Barnstone, two inspirations.

I feel a little silly listing all of tonight’s readers, since it’s easy enough to go to Carnival‘s site, download the first issue, and see who did what. Still, not everyone attended, and not everyone who did attend read the exact same pieces that appeared in the magazine. So here goes:

  1. Jose Arroyo read “Dos Mundos” (Carnival), “Like a Streetlight or a Stop Sign,” and “Parking Ticket”;
  2. Marta Chausée read “The Cracks” (Carnival);
  3. Scott Creley read “Lepon, Lepon, Lepon” (Carnival) — shouldn’t that be Lapin, Lapin, Lapin“? — and a poem with a long title that begins “My Father in the Morning at the Kitchen Counter…”;
  4. Wesley Francis read “Theft” (Carnival) and “There’s Not Much to Say”;
  5. Dylan Gosland read “Wilford Brimley’s Mustache” (Carnival) and “Class”;
  6. Catherine H. read “The Broken” (Carnival) and “Thanksgiving at the Hotel Taj Mahal, Mumbai 2008″;
  7. Michaelsun Knapp read “Thomas and the Hummingbird” (Carnival), “Bird Calls,” and “Mister Pan”;
  8. Gerald Locklin, who took a quick spill on his way up to the front, read three poems about paintings, all from Carnival: “Jan van de Cappelle or Follower: A View of the River Maas before Rotterdam, 1645,” “Monet: Vétheuil in Winter, 1879,” and “Sir Henry Raeburn: James Cruikshank“;
  9. Eric Morago read “Circus Love” (Carnival), Luke Salazar’s “Yet Another of My Many Bad Ideas” (Carnival), and “How to Lie on a Bed of Nails”;
  10. Natalie Morales read “Uncensored Nature” and “For Kathleen” (Carnival);
  11. Jacqueline Pham was supposed to read, but she was absent; from the Carnival table of contents, I recognize her piece “Atelophobia” from the January 26th Bank Heavy Press reading; Jacqueline Pham = Jax;
  12. Kevin Ridgeway read “Carnival Love Music” (Carnival), “If I Were on a Talk Show,” and “Sorry I Stepped on Your Painting”;
  13. Daniel Romo read “Propulsion” (Carnival), which was for Taylor, and “Attraction” (Carnival);
  14. Charlotte San Juan read “Something Embarrassing,” “The Yellow House” (Carnival), and “Lollycup Parking Lot At 10 PM” (Carnival);
  15. Thomas R Thomas read “She — stands on the beach” (Carnival) about his almost-girlfriend, a short poem about his wife, a short poem featuring a kettle with tea, “Hunky Dory,” “Alice Cooper,” and a short poem about the unexamined life;
  16. Michael Torres read “Kids” (Carnival) and an untitled piece;
  17. and Omar ZahZah wrapped things up with “The Life I Had” (Carnival), “His Sadness Set on the Wall Looked Over,” and “The Dirty Hands.”

Who else was there that I know? Supplementing the San Gabriel Valley contingent were lLoyd Aquino, Adrienne Selina Silva, Carly McKean, and Alexander Vogel. I finally spoke to Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss; she called me “Michael.” I explained that I was, at the highest, the fourth local writer Buckley, after Christopher, Michael, and Kate, although I keep hearing that Kate, whom I never met, moved to Tennessee and is thus no longer local. I saw dANIEL cUESTA, who again commented on my piece “California Winter” from The Shadow Oak Sessions Volume 1. I met Nicole Street, whom I already knew by sight, while I was talking with Daniel Romo; he highly recommended that I check out her reading series at Cal State-Long Beach, so I think I will.  I went out to eat with John Brantingham and some others after the show, although his wife Ann had already left in a separate car. Uh…gosh, I guess that’s it. One more evening of successful poetizing; I didn’t get to read, but I’m getting used to that at Exhibit [A].

Notes on a Tebot Bach Reading – Goldenwest College – 27 January 2012

I received this in my email inbox this morning. Big thanks to Tom Thomas, or perhaps to me. (As noted below, it’s hard to discern exactly what was happening.)

This is Tom Thomas writing as proxy for John Buckley, or maybe channeling John’s wandering spirit who for some inexplicable reason couldn’t make it to the Tebot Bach Reading Friday night (January 27, 2012) and is somehow (how can this be?) influencing Me (John Buckley, or am I Tom Thomas?) with his (my?) excessively verbose verbosity — greetings from earth, so this is my (his) report/blog on the reading at Tebot Bach in Huntington Beach at Golden West College.

I didn’t arrive at all (where was I?), but Tom arrived early, and waited for Mifanwy to arrive so they could set up for the reading. Just a note on the atmosphere of the Tebot Bach readings – the Tebot Bach readings have a nice coffeehouse feel to it, with coffee, tea, and pastries and with tables and a darkened room during the reading.

First up was Tina Yang (one of the features). I’d like to take a moment here to apologize. Since I wasn’t really here (where was I?) and I’m not really writing this, I (John Buckley) take no blame for Tom Thomas’ terrible memory and any errors he makes. I do take all the credit though for anything clever that gets written here, but I seriously doubt that will happen. Tina was (and I’m quoting the paper that was copied from the Tebot Bach website, though apparently Tom is too lazy to quote the whole bio) raised in a religious commune by her mother – a Buddhist nun (that is so cool), and works as a docent at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House (which somehow impressed Tom who babbled on about his Frank Lloyd Wright Lego house). Tina’s poems were quite nice and had wonderful imagery. I especially liked her last poem about her mother. I would tell you more about her poems, but somehow my memory is fuzzier than usual. I think Tom doesn’t pay as close attention as I do and he has no notes on the reading.

The second feature was Susan Davis who just came out with her first book, I Was Building Up to Something, which came out from Moon Tide Press. Susan directs undergraduate creative writing at University of California, Irvine, and other interesting stuff (it was in the bio on the table). Susan had some very nice poems which all were from her aforementioned book. They all had a dark and sombre tone to them. One impressive bit of news was that one of the blurbs on the back of the book was by Robert Pinsky — not bad. I would tell you more, but since I am channelling my wandering spirit thorough Tom’s brain, I am getting a headache and I can’t seem to remember all that he (I) heard.

After the break were the open readers. There weren’t very many people in attendance (Where was everyone? Was there some kind of natural disaster? Was that why I missed the Tebot Bach reading?), only three people signed up for the reading (Was there some other event Friday? I think the Super Bowl is in a week and isn’t on a Friday.), and all of their names started with a T. The first was a first-time reader, a nice young lady, and I would tell you her name but with Tom’s terrible memory for names, I couldn’t tell you. Well, the T girl was the most enthusiastic poet of the evening and read two wonderful poems. I am looking forward to hearing her in the future. The next poet was Trin(sp.). Of course it wasn’t Trin(sp.), since Trin(sp.) had forgotten his glasses and couldn’t read his poem himself so Brad (who used to be a helper for Tebot Bach and hadn’t been there for a while) read his poem. Trin(sp.)’s poem was very nice and read by Brad was greatly appreciated by the crowd. (Since Trin(sp.) has such a heavy accent, it is hard to understand his poems.)

At the beginning of the open reading, Tom brought out his pocket Moleskine® book and encouraged all of the poets in the room to always remember to bring poems to a reading just in case there is an opportunity to read.

Tom read (and he tells me that he often doesn’t remember what he reads) “Kitten in the piranha tank” (go figure, a haiku with a title), “The Fort,” and “Ren & Stimpy.” He tells me that he would comment on them, but he thinks it might sound too prideful.

Well, apparently it was a nice reading, in spite of the poor turnout (where was everyone?), but Tom and Mifanwy weren’t upset since there must have been a good reason why people didn’t show up. It was quite windy. Maybe it was the Santa Anas.

Okay, after a night of my spirit being in two locations at once, I think I need a nap.

Notes on a Hair Club for Poets Reading – Ronnie at Number 34 – 27 January 2012

I had my second-ever poetry feature last night at Ronnie at Number 34, a funky barber shop and art space at 9025 E. Florence Ave. in Downey. Proprietor Ronnie Contreras handed over the reins for the night to reading-series curators John Brantingham and Roy Anthony Shabla. Sharing the bill with me was literary legend Gerald Locklin. I was pretty psyched even before anything happened.

More representatives from the non-poetry parts of my life showed up: my wonder-wife Raquel, my painter sister Kathleen Buckley, and one of my best and oldest friends, drummer, sculptor, and visual-effects artist Eric Warren. Soon G. Murray Thomas arrived, whom I introduced to my people as “the secret godfather of Southern-California poetry.” Then there was Luke Salazar, whom Don Murray immediately appointed his enforcer, only partly because of Luke’s ability to approximate an East-Coast mobster’s accent and demeanor. My friends from the San Gabriel Valley came — lLoyd Aquino, Ann Brantingham, Scott Noon Creley, Michaelsun Knapp, and Adrienne Selina Silva; one of them, visual artist Sam Gosland, had already stationed himself outside the venue with his supplies, painting for the masses. A bunch of people came whom Roy seemed to know, apparently folks from the local Downey poetry scene and the Downey Arts Coalition, which sponsored the event in conjunction with the San Gabriel Valley Lit Fest.

I don’t recall all too much about the open reading because I was nervous about my set and because I was standing up instead of sitting and taking notes. Murray spoke about pain after being being hit by a car and about his new kidney arriving at LAX on a flight filled with organs. Luke Salazar spoke about hanging out in the ICU after his mom was hit by a car. lLoyd read “Beat Poets” for a new crop of people. Michaelsun read about Catalina. Adrienne read about Sam, her boyfriend. Marta Chausée, another San Gabrielino, read about less than perfect relationships. Two people I don’t know read poems about nature, particularly the desert. At the end of the reading, after Gerry and I had read, the audience voted on which open reader to have as the next feature; everyone cheered the three nominees — Luke, lLoyd, and Adrienne — equally vigorously, so they Rochambeaued for glory. Adrienne won, her scissors beating the men’s two papers. So along with Murray, she will headline in late February.

Between the open reading and the voting came the features. John Brantingham generously hyped each of us in turn; I wish I had recorded or transcribed what he said when introducing me. It was semi-gushy and very appreciated.

I try not to read the same poems for the same people more than once. This posed a challenge for this event, because many of the people who attended Ronnie at Number 34 also attended my featured reading in Glendora in November. Did I have a deep enough bench to construct a whole new lineup of good players? I hoped so. I didn’t hear any cries of disappointment or melancholy primate hooting during or afterward, so I guess I did okay. Here’s what I read:

  1. “Avoidance,” about getting ready to get in trouble at work for showing up hungover and smelly to an eighth-grade class trip;
  2. “Aching for a Knack for Charcuterie,” about sausage-making with my dad;
  3. “The Morning After,” about waking up hungover at my dad’s house;
  4. “Semi-Abstract Portrait of Student Driver”;
  5. “Portrait of a Dying Marriage as an Unplugged Refrigerator,” the title of which Kathleen likes;
  6. “Storefront Church,” about a diner/parish, the first piece I ever chose to read at a reading, on June 21, 2011;
  7. “Leaving New Eden,” about the sleazy side of vegetable love;
  8. “The Story Behind My Next Tattoo,” about loving the freakish;
  9. “Your Fault,” the third or fourth surreal poem in a row;
  10. “Syzygy,” about a couple who wish not upon stars for big dreams, but upon main-belt asteroids for small favors;
  11. and “An Existentialist Children’s Story,” about the death of a cruise-ship employee.

Upon reflection, I might have done better to put the longer, later pieces first, maybe inverting the sequence for the whole set. Ah, well. I did remember that trick Tamara Madison seemed to use in November, of speaking diagonally across the microphone instead of directly into it. Some of the poems I read have been published, others not. None of them have been printed online, but you can click on the Sky Sandwiches table of contents page or the Audio Recordings page to hear a few of them.

Gerry Locklin spoke, read, sang, and danced into our hearts last night. He’s been around so long and published so prolifically along the way that he’s able to bring a whole stack of books with him from which to pull. He read from his novella about a priest with many beautiful lovers. He read from his book on Hemingway and Cuba. He read crowd-pleasers I’ve heard before, like his super-brief poem on King Tut and his randy piece on CPR mixed with fellatio. He told us the history behind various selections, weaving personal information in with the literary. Although he was wearing his waltzing Birkenstocks rather than his dancing Birkenstocks, he boogied down for a bit. And he wrapped up his set with a capable rendition of “Danny Boy.”

After the poets, after the voting, during the mingling, a woman with a camera and Scott both snapped photos of different combination of Roy, John, Ronnie, Gery, and me. I kept forgetting to suck in my gut.

I haven’t hung out with Kathleen in months, so I didn’t stick around too long after the show. But I tried to say good-bye and thank you to as many people as I could.

It really was a pretty good night.

Notes on a Bank-Heavy Press Reading – Gatsby Books – 26 January 2012

Wow, I took a lot of notes. I kinda had to, because so many people read last night, at the launch party for Husbands and Malfeasant Dogs, the fourth anthology/journal in nine months from the industrious, intrepid editors of Bank Heavy Press. I’m in it, for my poem “Short Stack,” so I got a contributor’s copy. I picked tan from the four colors available.

Malfeasant is pronounced male-FEEZ-ant, not male-FEZZ-ant. This was firmly established last night.

Starting, um, I don’t know when, Bank Heavy Press will host a reading, the Bank Heavy Variety Show, at Gatsby Books on the fourth Thursday of each month. I hope Cory De Silva, Karie McNeley, and Zack Nelson Lopiccolo remember to contact the fine people at so their gig can get on the comprehensive monthly calendar.

Cory was dressed up as what, a bearded Belgian thug, ready to steal citizens’ waffles before being defeated by Spider-Man? Karie was dressed as a sheep, although Kevin Lee at first thought she was a panda. Zack was the Mohawked, eye-dyed spawn of the Misfits and KISS. Cory touched his grease-penciled beard without thinking, soiling his hands, so he wasn’t able to pass out books for much of the night. Costumes can be treacherous.

Some people came just to show their support. Most of them are unknown to me. But I saw Clifton Snider, Fred Voss, Joan Jobe Smith, and, of course, Gatsby Books’ owners, Sean Richard Moor and Alisha Attella, with their two kids.

The reading began:

  1. Karie read two of her own poems, “Full Ocean” and “Longevity,” plus “After We Threw Down Kamikazes” by Kenneth Gurney. The last two appear in Husbands and Malfeasant Dogs. I think for the rest of this list, I’ll just use (H&MD) as shorthand to indicate the poem’s publication there.
  2. Clint Margrave, whose hand I finally shook last night, read “Varnish” (H&MD) and “Rebel” (H&MD). I wish him luck with his future children, who may rebel against their daddy by becoming Southern Baptists.
  3. Eric Morago, with whom I chatted a bit before the show, whom Zack noted is still taller than Cory, read “What Real Hunger Is” (H&MD), a zombie poem I’m surprised didn’t wind up in Aim For the Head. Maybe it did. I dunno.
  4. Marianne Stewart read “Too Too Bad” (H&MD) and “Not Strange” (H&MD). Marianne, I’m sorry, but I’m kinda glad Robbie Bear punched you in fourth grade; you toyed with his heart and then made a poop on it. I don’t think he was justified, but…
  5. Jason Bowe, who still has his Boston accent, read “Satori” (H&MD), “Mission Accomplished,” and “Breaking News.”
  6. Olivia Somes has been in all four Bank Heavy Press collections. She has two poems in H&MD, but she read two others last night, “The Struggle to Stay the Same” and “The Fallacy of Lesbian Sex.”
  7. Cory’s friend John Schlegel read “Cheeseburgers” (H&MD) and “The Problem with Earthquakes.”
  8. Jax read a great poem called “Atelophobia,” named after the fear of not being good enough.
  9. The night’s first feature, Anna Badua, whose name is pronounced Bah-DOO-ah instead of BAD-oo-ah, was anxious and bummed to have to go up right after Jax’s poem. That seemed weird to me, because Anna’s such a crucial part of the Long Beach poetry scene; one might expect her to be pretty jaded and steelily confident by now. Now I, on the other hand, am a relative newcomer with social anxiety issues. Then again, as a teacher, I speak publicly for a living… Anyway, Anna read “Sargasso Sea,” “Life Forms,” “No One’s Looking,” “An Art Lesson,” and “Transience.” Her set was good, but seemed a little short. Maybe she didn’t want to push her luck.
  10. Jeff Epley, the night’s second feature and the featured poet in H&MD, struggled to mix wine and water, but handled the public speaking readily. Both Karie and Zack had him as their professor at Long Beach City College. He read “Way Off Broadway, I Practice the New Civility” (H&MD), “If Your Poet Husband Often Writes of a Beloved You Know, for Sure, Isn’t You” (H&MD), “A Confederacy of Redundancies” (H&MD), and “The Paris Code of Conduct” (H&MD). I recognized a couple of poems from when Jeff featured with Kevin Lee and Rick Lupert at Exhibit [A] back in September. Jeff is funny. His poems are funny.
  11. After a brief potty break, Cory read his grandfather Don Peery’s “Overheard At a Nearby Table” (H&MD), Zack Locklin’s “Watching The Evil of Frankenstein” (H&MD), and his own “How to Become a Better Poet.”
  12. I knew I had three downbeat poems, so I started with a joke: “‘Beat me!’ said the masochist. ‘No,’ said the sadist.” People laughed, but Jeff Epley thought it was my first poem; actually, I think Shaun Ferguson taught me that joke in 1984 or so. I read “Short Stack” (H&MD) about life after a college friend’s death, “For Charla Nash” about the woman disfigured by a supposedly-tame chimpanzee, and “Family Circus” about my mother’s terminal cancer. Party, party, party…
  13. Kevin Lee read — let me catch my breath for this one — “A tall black guy sipping red wine, reading a novel, a parrot on his shoulder sits on a foldout mesh lawn chair on the sidewalk outside a pale green apartment building with a ‘For Rent’ sign dangling above a garage door” (H&MD) and another poem with almost as long a title. The title starts with “Upon Walking to My Car…” and then mentions a squirrel and a KitKat wrapper, but I couldn’t write fast enough to record the whole she-bang. Anyway, it’s from the third Bank Heavy collection, Pom-Pom-Pomeranian.
  14. Kelsey McNeley, Karie’s fifteen-year-old sister, read a poem of hers published in Pom-Pom-Pomeranian and another one that she recited from memory. She impressed a lot of people. I think Karie’s parents were in the audience as well.
  15. Josue Mendoza, who has been in all four Bank Heavy collections, read “Sex in the Digital Age,” the witty “Hot Love Burns in the Pants and in the Chest” (H&MD), and “The Epic Tale of Don Florentino.”
  16. Samantha Malamalamaokahonua Allen has two poems in H&MD, but decided to read two others. I missed the title of the first one, but the second was “True Love.”
  17. Thomas R. Thomas read “Bougainvillea flow on the porch” (H&MD) and “The Fort.” I especially like Tom’s poems about his childhood, like “The Fort” and the one about his dad’s table.
  18. Gerald Locklin, with whom I will feature tonight at Number 34, a very cool barber shop located at 9025 Florence, Downey, CA 90240, began by imitating Charles Bukowski drunkenly singing “Melanch0ly Baby.” Then he read “Andy Warhol: Small Crushed Campbell’s Soup Can (Beef Noodle), 1962″  (H&MD) and “John Singer Sargent: Repose, 1911″ (H&MD). The second, steamier poem so affected Gerry that he stopped to ensure no spontaneous orgy would break out, at least not without him.
  19. Dacy Lim arrived a little late to the show, but well in time to read her poem “Incidents with Insects” (H&MD), which I  pointed out is on page 11. I am a little helper.
  20. Josh Fernandez read “Apples to Apples” (H&MD), his first ever publication, and “Rainy Days” off his iPhone.
  21. Marcello Giagnoli read “The Daybreak” (H&MD), “Trembling with Tenderness,” and “She Fell Away.” All three of his poems seemed to entail the vicissitudes and fickleness of love.
  22. Zack wrapped up the event’s proceedings with Australian contributor Matthew John Davies’ “Heavy Inertia” (H&MD), Idahoan Maggie Koger’s “The Collector” (H&MD), and his own “Surgical Grade Drywall” (H&MD), which Karie likes more than Zack does. The last poem addresses Zack’s post-graduation life working for his father.

After the reading, I stood around like a ninny, wanting to meet Gerry Locklin before our reading. But I spaced out too long and he disappeared. Then about a dozen of us went to the local Hof’s Hut, where I ordered chicken pot pie and a beer. The pot pie came with chili. Huh, okay. We talked, ate, laughed, and had a good time, although later, driving home, I was a bit concerned that Raquel might think I had stayed out too late; I really should have called her. Bad husband!

P.S. Looking at Zack’s photos on Facebook, I see that Tamara Madison and Luke Salazar were also in attendance. How did I miss them? That’s what I get for sitting too far in the front.

Delayed Delivery of Nastiness: “The Romantic Obstetrician”

Okay, so, as I’ve noted repeatedly, I spewed forth a tsunami of poems in March 2009, after my initial rebirth (Is that phrase redundant?) as a poet or “poet.” On March 9th alone, I delivered thirteen small pieces into the world after infinitesimal gestation periods, including a misanthropic wad titled “The Romantic Obstetrician,” in which I mixed multiple OB-GYN-related metaphors in quick succession, describing an abusive, controlling lover.

Okay, so, as I tended to do at that time, I sent the least dubious “cream” of the crop indiscriminately all over the publishing landscape. I sent “The Romantic Obstetrician” out a bunch of places in late March, went back to writing more dreck, collected a bunch of rejections, eventually calmed down and decreased my torrent of inferior poetry, collected more rejections, found a new part-time teaching gig, and otherwise continued on with life. The poems from March ’09 that somehow deserved to make it into publications generated acceptance letters and emails within a few months. The one exception was “The Romantic Obstetrician,” which was accepted by The William and Mary Review not until March 13, 2010, almost a year after I’d submitted it there. I waited by the mailbox for my contributor’s copy. And waited. And waited.

Okay, so, as Martin Ott and I continued writing poems for what would become Poets’ Guide to America, we also sent pieces out for publishing consideration. “A Little Drunk in Little Rock,” the forty-fourth of our fifty poems to come into being, was accepted by The William and Mary Review on February 28, 2011. I still hadn’t received my contributor’s copy containing the earlier poem.

Okay, so, as it turns out, I guess the College of William and Mary must have had a lean year followed by a flush year financially, since finally, last spring, each of us received about five copies of The William and Mary Review Volume 49 (2011), containing both “The Romantic Obstetrician” and “A Little Drunk in Little Rock.” Martin gave me his extras, so now I have — I just checked — nine copies of that issue. Let me know whether you’d like one.

Hey, you know what? Why don’t I just reprint my poem in its entirety? Its copyrights have been returned to me as of publication, and it’s pretty short:

The Romantic Obstetrician

Baby, the best thing about

the fontanelle [sic] in your soul

is that when I firmly press my thumb into it,

it prevents you

from telling me

you’ve outgrown our relationship.

I wish I could permanently

circumcise your tongue

with sharp words

and a swab of keen alcohol.

Doctor knows best.

If nothing else, at least it looks pretty on page 95. As always, I’m a sucker for good production values, and the belated Volume 49, though slender, is glossy and visually appealing.

Notes on Two Idiots Peddling Poetry – The Ugly Mug – 25 January 2012

Teaching an evening class has its disadvantages. On the one hand, those who take classes after 5 PM tend to be cut from a more serious cloth than other community-college students. On the other hand, now I can’t get to downtown Orange fast enough to enjoy a very leisurely repast before the Two Idiots Peddling Poetry start things off at The Ugly Mug. On the one hand, I did find a pretty good parking space last night, just down the block from the place. On the other hand, I didn’t come before Greg Patrick, which means he was able to snag our mutual favorite table by the window.

First I paid admission and ordered mint tea and a chicken teriyaki bowl. the Mug’s owner Phil said to take a seat, that the bowl would take about five minutes to prepare. I entered and said hi to Greg, Martha Stothard, and LilBob. I then planted myself one table over from Greg, in John Perry’s favorite spot, leaving John first to sit on the couch once he arrived, then to move to share Greg’s table du jour. Other people showed up — Jaimes Palacio, wearing an uncharacteristic-seeming ensemble of tie and tan shirt; James Kelly; the night’s feature Adrian Wyatt, wearing a feathered headpiece, a fur-lined red coat, a print dress, and heels — she looked cool; the San Gabriel Valley contingent; Graham; Heidi Denkers; and an array of other people with noteworthy hair. Where was Leigh White? Whatever happened to cop-poet Phil Aldridge? Where was my chicken teriyaki bowl?

The hosts came. I signed up on the open-reading list at #4, with no Leigh to steal it from me. (Hi, Leigh! I missed you last night!) People settled in. My chicken teriyaki bowl was still MIA.

I got up, walked over to the front counter, and hovered, as Phil made drinks for a long line of people. I left him to his professional devices and sat back down. But no, I was too hungry to wait patiently. I got up again and hovered some more until Phil asked whether he’d forgotten something. I croaked “Chicken teriyaki bowl…” Phil pulled the now-lukewarm plastic bowl from the microwave and finally gave me my dinner. It was filled with formerly-frozen premade deliciousness, almost worth the $4.95 and forty minutes I invested in procuring it.

The reading began:

  1. Greg read a long poem. I couldn’t quite catch the title. He also had a medical cane. I don’t know the story.
  2. Jaimes read “Balloon” and “I, Cartoon,” commenting before the latter that he felt he had become a cartoon.
  3. Martha Stothard read three poems she wrote Tuesday in a poetry improv chat room: “Collected Wishes,” “Rain, Come Wash Me” (?), and “I Am Not Ready to Say Goodnight” (?).
  4. I read three older poems, from my chapbook Breach Birth: “Date in Las Vegas,” “Fridays,” and “Apotheosis.” All of them received intermittent positive responses as i read, but based on the comments people gave me afterward, they liked “Apotheosis” the best. Because it involves giant poo. Poo is fun. Giant poo is funner.
  5. Adrian Wyatt’s set was filled with great imagery, lots and lots of similes, conversational asides, and an overall presentation that seemed to both conceal and reveal deep emotion. An unconventional romantic, she portrayed herself in at least a couple of poems as the lover a beloved man has before meeting the woman he marries, the last funky hurrah before he sells out and settles down. I liked her set a lot. I think she’s been my favorite feature here this month. She read “Halfway to Phoenix,” “How to Make Sitting in Traffic Really Awkward,” “The Shotgun Was Just a Misunderstanding,” “The White Hart,” “Bombs for Breakfast,” and a poem she wrote on the topic “blue balls” for the local version of The Encyclopedia Show — “The Biggest Blue Balls Are Never Well-Attended.” Counter-intuitively, that last piece provided a very happy ending to her set. Ben, a proudly gay man, got up to the mike and told Adrian, “I think I love you.”
  6. After the break, during which John Perry, LilBob, Martha, and Greg had to leave, John Brantingham read “Westminster Abbey, March 1991″ about migraines, Geoffrey Chaucer, crucial times of life, and the sublime.
  7. lLoyd Aquino pulled out arguably his biggest gun — “Beat Poets.” He killed it.
  8. Michaelsun Knapp read three pieces off an iPhone: “D.T.” (about his old boss), “Stock Love Poem,” and “Occupy Alcatraz Again.”
  9. James Kelly read “Garden Grove 1920″ (dedicated to Chelsea Kurnick) and an untitled poem derived from an exercise Steve Ramirez made him do (1 sentence, ≥30 lines, about a domestic activity but not really about that domestic activity).
  10. Michael Torres read the pithy “Red Wax Beautiful.”
  11. Michael Canton, who is not typically a poet, read “Front Porch Epiphany,” a gay-hobbit love poem with a long title, and “I-5.”
  12. David Ohlsen read “Captured Motion Sickness.”
  13. Chris Bliss read two rhyming pieces — “My Bush” and “Wait and Pause” — and, for some reason, her bio.
  14. The dapper Toren read three poems from his chapbook Tying Off with Hookers: “Stages,” “Round and Round We Go,” and “The Dying Breed.”
  15. Caterina, whom I haven’t seen before but whom Ben said has been coming to Two Idiots Peddling Poetry since she was in high school, read “Loaded.”
  16. Heidi Denkers read “Cancer” (a zombie poem), “Success,” and David Kirby’s “How to Use This Body.” I think this was my favorite performance by her so far.
  17. Samuel Rees, who is growing a beard, read “This Morning Shrugs.”
  18. Lance began closing out the open readers with a poem called “That Was Her Name,” “That Was Renee,” or something else entirely. Then he gave shout-outs to the gay hobbit poem, the feature, and “Beat Poets.” He also read “Oedipus” and “Seasons.”

After everyone finished, Ben gave a collective shout-out to all the first-time and second-time readers. He said there was probably poetry going on in the coming week, but he didn’t know where. Upon hearing this, John Brantingham and I looked at each other from across the room; Gerry Locklin and I are the features Friday night at a reading John is hosting in Downey. But I think both of us were also thinking, “How big is the venue’s space? Do we want to publicize it? Will it fit extra people?” John affirmed afterward that the barber shop where the reading will take place holds only about twenty people, although we can apparently escape out the back door and read in the parking lot, if need be.