Wednesday, April 21, 2010

14 poets take the stage / The View from Up Here

How was your day, Darling?

Thank you for asking, Sweetie. Well, we went to Morris Arboretum for Ada's Outing. Got an hour-long guided tour by both Rick and Bill. Bill is in training. A retired pediatrician, we learned. All those trees. Did you know people have favorite trees? Nature lovers do. And flowers too. What are yours?

After the 8 or so of us had finished our tour, we stood outside the Carriage House, for our long goodbye, and I said, Rick, lemme tell you who we are. We're New Directions of Abington, the biggest and best support group in the Philadelphia area for people with depression, bipolar disorder and our family families. Each category is represented here, right now.

Rick looked at us. All I see, he said, are happy smiles. Rick himself said he knew what depression was. For two long years he had agoraphobia and couldn't leave home. When he began his job speaking in public he was an anxious mess.

For some reason, the grounds reminded me of when I visited Sarah at Kripalu yoga in Lenox, MA, where she was teaching for the summer. An idyllic trip where I had a minor psychotic break, nothing to be concerned about, gone in a wink with - what was I taking back then? - Risperdal?

It was the glorious trees that took ne back to Massachusetts. A tree to sit down under and read a book. That's my idea of heaven. You know what? If truth be known, I'd rather do that than anything else in the world. Read a book. And then put it down and go talk to Scott. Maybe eat a couple purple grapes like I am right now.

I also, as you know, love to drive my car. Drive straight down York Road to the Elkins Park Library. Let's not forget to take that jughandle turn onto Church Road.

The poets were convening in the room. Mike Cohen was the featured reader. What a lovely man! I don't say this about too many men. It's an adjective that must be used with great care. You can't just throw it around. An indefinable quality. He is gracious. Like Mauriccio Giammarco, the film professor. Or the Dalai Lama. Gandhi, for sure. Bill Clinton, never!

Mike's glasses were propped on top of his head. He used them as a prop, taking them on and off as he performed his poems. The audience started laughing right away. He's an Ogden Nash poet....deep and funny. Funny deep. Simply a great performer. I think he got more applause than any poet I've ever heard.

Who needs the Geraldine R Dodge Festival when we've got Arthur Krasnow hosting his Poets and Poetry Night at the library.

Afterward I was in no hurry to leave. I sold a poem to Allan Rubin for $5. The poem Shaker Furniture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He collects books about the Shakers and will stick it in a book. I typed it on the back of one of the SEPTA work orders Scott saves for me.

Most of Mike Cohen's poems had to do with death. When he sat back down, next to girlfriend Connie, I said, Mike, I started thinking about death every day after I turned 60. He said, he'd started well before that.

What I didn't say to him was that it was only when I turned 57 that I realized I was getting old. Until then, I'd forgotten to count.

Audrey Bookspan, who read a poem about her 100-year-old mother/law who still lives in her home -- with help, of course -- trained with Martha Graham. Martha wouldn't take her, tho, in her dance group, cuz Audrey had a "Jewish body" - zoftig, she told us. When I wrote my Guest Editorial about this very poetry group I mentioned Audrey's poem "Ode to the Commode" after her hip operation.

Oh, my aching back.

I also read a poem no one liked called The View from Up Here: A Dream. It's not that they didn't like it, it's just not that good, that's all. I think I'll print it here and see what I think.


I meant to call you Linda, but you know how busy things can get, how time just flies when you cook all your own food to keep your kidneys healthy, oh, I would’ve taken the lithium anyway, but can’t a girl ever get a break, the diminishment of my kidney function with every breath I take? So you’ll excuse me, I hope, for summoning you in a dream and meeting you without an appointment at your office, a beautiful building, I never knew, that used to be a southern mansion.

How kind of you to bring me up to meet your boss, the one and only Rick Centipede, who like the rest of America, expanded more than he could handle, and began closing satellites all over the Delaware Valley where he hoped to make a killing. Tend your own backyard, we say to Rick, silently, of course, as you point me toward his office on the top floor. Not exactly a penthouse suite, I enter and the man himself, the lord of the manor, is sitting on the side of his bed, ready to climb in.

His face is a blur. I had pictured him a handsome dappled-gray-haired man, the King Louie of psychologists, but where is his face? I take myself to the window for a view of the trees and press my breasts against the window pane. Ah! I am alive once again and can feel the feeling of being so so alive, the feeling shoots through me, from head to toe, anchored by my once milk-bearing breasts. I glance over at Rick, under the covers now, as I shake myself awake, and reach for a glass of water.

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