Grand Rapid's Poets Conference: Poetry Readings 04/02/2012


Uploaded by GRCCtv on 03.04.2012

Transcript:
>> SO, TONIGHT'S-- UM, I'M DAVE COPE, POET LAUREATE OF GRAND RAPIDS,
BLAH-BLAH-BLAH... (laughing)
IT'S A NICE PLATFORM TO GET SOME THINGS DONE,
I GUESS IS WHAT I'D SAY.
UM, WELCOME.
TONIGHT, WE HAVE THE FIRST THREE READERS IN THE CONFERENCE SERIES,
AND I'M REALLY PLEASED TO START WITH THESE THREE
'CAUSE THEY ARE ALL VERY OLD FRIENDS.
WE'VE NEEDLED EACH OTHER IN THE RIBS AND GIGGLED TOGETHER FOR DECADES,
IN SOME CASES.
AND IT'S A PLEASURE, BECAUSE I WON'T HAVE TO DO USUAL ACADEMIC THING,
WHICH I PROBABLY WON'T DO ANYWAY.
SO, WE'LL START AT THE BEGINNING--
KIM WYNGARDEN, WHO IS A LONG-TIME PROFESSOR HERE AT THE COLLEGE,
TEACHING CREATIVE WRITING.
I'LL JUST KIND OF GIVE YOU A TAKE ON--
YOU KNOW, I EDITED THE ANTHOLOGY OF GRAND RAPIDS' POETS,
WHICH WE'RE GONNA PUBLISH-- UH, "SONG OF THE OWASHTANONG."
AND WHEN KIM SENT ME HER STUFF,
IT WAS REALLY INTERESTING AS A MANUSCRIPT,
BECAUSE A LOT OF TIMES, PEOPLE SEND A "GREATEST HITS"
OR THEY WILL SEND POEMS THAT MOVE THEM RIGHT NOW
OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, AND IT BECOMES SORT OF A...
"DISCREET SERIES," AS THEY WOULD CALL IT.
BUT WHEN I LOOKED AT KIM'S STUFF,
IT WAS ALMOST AS THOUGH THERE WAS A JOURNEY GOING ON.
EACH POEM STOOD BY ITSELF,
BUT I GOT A FEELING OF A VISION THAT WAS MOVING ALL THE TIME,
AND THAT IN ORDER TO GET A PICTURE AS TO WHAT IT WAS,
YOU HAD TO SEE THE WHOLE THING, IF THAT MAKES SENSE.
AND I'VE ALWAYS LOVED THAT IN POETS, WHEN THEY CAN BE BOTH--
EACH POEM STANDS BY ITSELF, BUT IT ALSO IS PART
OF ANOTHER THING WHICH IS A KIND OF JOURNEY
WHICH CANNOT BE REDUCED TO NARRATIVE,
IF THAT MAKES SENSE TO EVERYBODY.
YEAH, IT'S WHAT THEY USED TO CALL--
OH, GOD, THE WORD ESCAPES ME NOW, SO WE'LL SKIP IT.
IT'S ONE OF THOSE ACADEMIC TERMS.
SO, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO...
KIM, IT'S ALL YOURS.
(applause)
>> WELL, IT IS APRIL, AND APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH,
AND IT'S GOOD TO SEE A NUMBER OF YOU HERE,
AND I WANT TO ESPECIALLY THANK MY STUDENTS FOR COMING
BECAUSE THEY'RE JUGGLING BETWEEN RESEARCH PAPERS
AND FINAL PROJECTS AND SO FORTH.
SO, THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO COME.
THE FIRST POEM THAT I'M GOING TO READ
IS CALLED "A COLD WAR-- IN FOUR FRAMES,"
AND I WANT TO GIVE YOU A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND INFORMATION,
OR A FOOTNOTE, TO THE POEM.
IN 1990, SOUTH OSSETIANS DECLARED INDEPENDENCE FROM GEORGIA.
THEY CALLED THEMSELVES "THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH OSSETIA."
THE GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONDED
BY ABOLISHING SOUTH OSSETIA'S AUTONOMY
AND TRYING TO TAKE THE REGION BY FORCE.
AND THE POEM IS "A COLD WAR-- IN FOUR FRAMES."
ONE.
A SHOE FROM A PILE GATHERED FOR THE DISPLACED
OUTSIDE A BUILDING MARKED WITH A RED CROSS,
FITS THE RIGHT FOOT OF THE LITTLE GIRL FROM SOUTH OSSETIA
WHO CAN'T FIND HER MOTHER IN THIS FOOD LINE DIVIDED BY SOLDIERS
AND TANKS IN THE EMBERS OF THIS FIVE-DAY WAR.
TWO.
A WOMAN DRESSED IN WHITE AT THE FRONT OF THE LINE
LADLES MILK MADE FROM POWDER INTO METAL CUPS
AND LOOKS INTO THE FACE OF EACH PERSON SHE SERVES
AS IF TO SAY, "THIS MILK WILL SUSTAIN YOU,
"WILL CARRY YOU BACK TO YOUR HOME,
"YOUR FAMILY, YOUR PEOPLE,"
MOST OF WHOM NO LONGER WARM THEIR BODIES WITH BEATING HEARTS,
BUT LIE BLOOD-BELLY UP, FACES TO THE SUN,
AND EYES OPEN TO WAIT FOR A PROPER BURIAL.
THREE.
A SOLDIER HALTERS UP HIS GUN IN THE SLING ON HIS SHOULDER
AND TAKES PLEASURE IN THE WAY FATE MOTIONS HIS FINGER ON THE TRIGGER,
AND SYNCS THE POSTURE OF THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD STILL BE PROUD,
EXCEPT THEY HAVE SEEN THE TEAR OF FLESH AND THE EXPLOSION OF WINDOWS,
THE DISTANCE A WALL WILL SHATTER,
LESS THAN A SECOND AFTER THE GRENADE LAUNCHER
SPLITS A BRIGHT MORNING.
FOUR.
A WIND BLOWS HARD AND COLD TONIGHT,
FLAPS THE SIDE OF A MAKESHIFT TENT OF MEN'S WORK SHIRTS,
BED SHEETS, AND A WOMAN'S SKIRT.
THE SPIRIT OF THE GIRL'S MOTHER WANES AND APPEARS,
THEN FLOATS THROUGH THE DOORWAY OF THE TENT
AND SETTLES ABOVE THE DIRT FLOOR.
IF SHE LISTENS QUIETLY, SHE WILL HEAR THE VOICE OF A CRICKET
AND THE HUM OF A SAD LULLABY REVIVED BY A LITTLE GIRL
WRAPPED IN MEMORY, BEAUTIFUL AND AFFIRMING.
"TO WAKE TO DISTANCE."
HE STALLS THE OLD PICKUP IN THE GRAVEL LOT OF THE NURSING HOME,
TIRES SPIT STONES AND PARALLEL LINES THAT FOLLOW HIM ONTO THE HIGHWAY,
TWO LINES THAT WILL NEVER MEET AGAIN IN EARTHLY TIME.
HE IS SO RELIEVED TO LEAVE HER, HIS WIFE WHO NO LONGER RECOGNIZES HIM,
THOUGH THEY HAVE SHARED THE SAME BED AND WORKED THE SAME ORCHARD,
HIS WIDE HIP TO HER SLIGHT HIP
FOR ALMOST 5O YEARS--
ON THE HIGHWAY, RELIEF BECOMES GRIEF
WHILE HE WATCHES OVERHEAD THE V-FORMATION OF GEESE
HEADING SOUTH FOR THE WINTER.
HE ROLLS DOWN THE WINDOW TO TAKE IN A FULL CLEANSING BREATH OF AIR,
THE HEARTBEAT UNDER HIS DENIM SHIRT GOING WILD.
HE KNOWS HIS FEET AND HANDS ALL OF HIS LIFE WORKING THE EARTH
THAT HIS MIND IS BEYOND UNDERSTANDING
WHERE SHE HAS GONE IN HER OWN COMPLICATED MAP OF THE BRAIN.
WHEN HE PULLS INTO THE DRIVE OF THEIR FARMHOUSE,
A COLD WIND RUSHES UNDER THE TRUCK.
HE DOES NOT HAVE TO READ THE ALMANAC TO KNOW THAT WINTER WILL COME EARLY
AND ALONE THIS YEAR.
HE FEELS NO HURRY TO GO INTO THE HOUSE,
THE OILY LIGHT OF THE WINDOWS PEERING BACK AT HIM.
IT HAS BEEN MONTHS SINCE SHE WAS THERE AT THE KITCHEN TABLE,
HER SMILE LIFTING HIM LIGHTLY INTO THE BLISS OF QUIET EVENING,
THE ORCHARD BEHIND THEM FRAMING THEIR ENTIRE HISTORY TOGETHER,
AND SAVINGS NOW SPENT ON A ROOM
AND NURSES WHO CALL HER BY A NAME SHE IS SURE BELONGS TO THE WOMAN
IN THE CHAIR NEXT TO HER.
WHEN HE GOES TO SLEEP AT NIGHT,
SADNESS PULLS THE COVERS UP TIGHT AROUND HIS NECK,
A SADNESS THAT LEAVES HIM WONDERING WHO SHE WILL THINK HE IS TOMORROW,
AFTER HE HAS OPENED HIS EYES TO THE EMPTY SPACE IN THEIR BED.
THE NEXT POEM THAT I'M GOING TO READ IS CALLED "MASTER AND MAN."
IT'S THE MOST RECENT POEM THAT I'VE WRITTEN.
AND I'VE FLIPPED THE ROLES IN THIS POEM.
THE DOG HAS BECOME THE KIND MASTER OF THE MAN.
IT'S CALLED "MASTER AND MAN."
THE DOG PULLS ON HIS MUKLUKS AND RED STOCKING CAP
AND GATHERS WITH A DEXTEROUS PAW THE EXPANDABLE LEAD
AT THE FRONT DOOR TO TAKE THE GRAY-BEARDED MAN FOR A WALK.
OUTSIDE, SNOW FALLS, THE SUN SETS EARLY
ON THESE LONELY WINTER EVES,
A SINGLE STRAND OF CHRISTMAS LIGHTS GLAZES THE FRONT WINDOW
OF THE ONLY OTHER HOUSE LEFT ON THE BLOCK.
AT RUSSO'S POND, THE OLD MAN SNIFFS AT A YELLOW CIRCLE IN THE SNOW,
PULLS AT THE LEAD AND LIFTS HIS LEG TO PEE
UNDER SICKLE-SHAPED STARS.
THE DOG NOSES THE MAN'S HAND, AS IF TO SAY, "YES, THAT'S IT, GOOD BOY."
CROSSING THE STREET TO THE LUMBER YARD,
WINDOWS DARK AND SPOTTED WITH SAWDUST.
THE OLD MAN'S EARS PERK, HIS SWANKY RUMP SWAGS BACK AND FORTH
WHEN HE SMELLS THE SCENT OF A SKUNK
AND RUNS FOR THE TAIL AS IT CLOSES IN THE LENS OF A WOODPILE.
SUCH IS THERE ROUTINE EVERY EVENING ABOUT THE TIME
WHEN THE OLD MAN MISSES THE WOMAN WHO BROUGHT HIM TEA AFTER DINNER,
READ THE COMICS ALOUD,
WHEN HIS EYES BEGAN TO SEE CLOUDS ON EVERY HORIZON.
BEFORE TURNING TO GO BACK INSIDE, THE MASTER PAUSES WITH THE MAN.
TOGETHER, THEY LOOK UP AT THE MOON AND A HOWL AND A BARK BREAKS OUT.
THE SOUND OF SLEIGH BELLS.
MANY OF THE POEMS THAT I WRITE ARE PERSONA POEMS,
AND THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A PERSONA POEM.
IT'S CALLED "HUSKS," AND IT'S WRITTEN FROM THE POINT OF VIEW
OF A YOUNG ADOLESCENT BOY TRYING TO COME TO TERMS
WITH WHAT'S HAPPENED IN OUR ECONOMY,
WITH SO MUCH UNEMPLOYMENT AND FORECLOSURES,
FAMILIES THAT HAVE TO SEPARATE AND MOVE APART IN ORDER TO GET JOBS.
AND THE POEM IS IN THE FORM OF A LETTER THAT HE SENDS TO HIS FATHER.
IT'S CALLED "HUSKS."
NOTHING NEW TO REPORT TODAY.
SUN BLAZES CROPS IN THE FIELDS, CURLED INTO HUSKS,
AND THAT DUMB DOG UP THE ROAD WAS KILLED
WHILE RUNNING ALONGSIDE MILLER'S TRUCK.
I TRIED PHONING YOU TO SAY, "THERE'S NOTHING NEW HAPPENING HERE."
THE WOMAN ON THE OTHER END SAID YOU WERE LOADING A SEMI
FOR A DELIVERY TO HOUSTON.
LUCY'S DAD LOST HIS JOB-- WE WERE EXPECTING THAT.
YOU QUIT BEFORE THEY COULD LET YOU GO, THAT'S HOW I UNDERSTAND IT.
DAD, I SEE THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD ON THE FENCE POST.
HE COMES EVERY DAY IN THE LATE AFTERNOON,
AN ANECDOTE TO THE HUM OF WILFRED'S TRACTOR.
I'VE MANAGED TO GET A RIDE TO SCHOOL WITH A NEIGHBOR NEXT DOOR.
THAT'S NEWS, I SUPPOSE.
MOTHER WORRIES LESS ABOUT GAS PRICES,
AND I'M COMING HOME AT THE END OF THE SCHOOL DAY WITH A SACK DINNER--
AN APPLE, A CHEESE SANDWICH, AND A JUICE BOX.
I MISS YOU.
GRANDMA'S GLAD YOU FOUND WORK,
AND MUM SAYS YOU'VE STARTED TALKING AGAIN IN SHORT SENTENCES,
SAYING WORDS LIKE "MAYBE" AND "WE'LL SEE."
LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU'LL BE HOME FOR A VISIT.
I'LL HAVE THE YARD MOWED THIS TIME.
I'VE MENDED THE CRACKED WINDOW IN THE GARAGE WITH TAPE.
IT NO LONGER RATTLES
WHEN STRONG WINDS BLOW IN FROM THE FIELDS.
THE NEXT POEM I'M GOING TO READ IS CALLED "THE SUMMER WITHOUT RAIN,"
AND I ALWAYS DATE MY POEMS, AND THIS POEM WAS WRITTEN IN AUGUST OF 2007,
AND IT WAS A SUMMER WITHOUT RAIN.
I REMEMBER SETTING THE SPRINKLER NOT SO MUCH TO WATER THE GRASS
BUT TO WATER THE BIRDS.
AND IT WAS NOT MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES OR SO OF HAVING THE FRONT SPRINKLER ON,
WHEN THE SPARROWS WOULD DESCEND,
AND I'M NOT EXAGGERATING OR EVEN LYING HERE,
BUT THEY WOULD LINE UP IN A ROW
IN FRONT OF A BOWL IN THE CONCRETE
THAT HAD FILLED WITH WATER FROM THE SPRINKLER, AND THEY WOULD DRINK.
AND I THOUGHT, "THOSE BIRDS ARE MORE CIVILIZED THAN MOST HUMAN BEINGS."
IT'S CALLED "THE SUMMER WITHOUT RAIN."
IN A HEAT THAT KEEPS CHILDREN INDOORS
AND THE YELLOW CAT LAYS UNDER THE SPIREA,
THE SPARROW FOLLOWS THE GRACE ARC OF THE LAWN SPRINKLER ALL SUMMER,
INTO THE PUDDLE MADE JUST DEEP ENOUGH INSIDE A CIRCLE OF CRACKED CONCRETE
ON THE SIZZLING SIDEWALK OUTSIDE MY FRONT DOOR.
A FAMILY OF SPARROWS FOLLOWS.
THEY LINE UP ONE SMALL BIRD BEHIND THE OTHER
WITHOUT A BULLY IN THE FLOCK FOR THEIR DIP IN THE BOWL OF WATER.
WINGS FANNED AND FLASHING,
A BARGAIN THAT THE HEAT OF SUMMER WILL NOT SINGE THEIR FLIGHT.
I WATCH THIS SEMBLANCE OF ORDER,
MADE MORE SOLEMN BY THE SHARED RELIEF THAT OFTEN COMES WITH WATER,
WHILE A CLAN OF FARMERS JUST MILES FROM HERE
STAND LIKE STALKS IN A CORNFIELD OF DRIED AND CRACKED FURROWS
IN THE SUMMER WITHOUT RAIN.
"BLUE RIVER OF CONTAGION."
BLAME IT ON MIGRATING WILD FOWL
WHO CARRY THE VIRUS OVER WATERWAYS
AND DROP DEAD THE SPARROW AT MY FOOT AT THE SIDEWALK'S EDGE,
ITS RUFFLED FEATHERS SWEPT ROUND INTO THE SIZE OF A CHILD'S EARMUFF,
THE RHYTHM AND SYNTAX
OF MY MORNING WALK NOW STILTED BY CAUTION.
BLAME THE CAT WHO STRAINS AND PAWS AT THE YELLOW-BELLIED BIRD,
UNDER THE SWING ON A PLAYGROUND
AND CARRIES GIRDLED 'ROUND HIS TEETH THE VIRUS HOME
TO A CHILD WAITING AT THE DOOR.
AT NIGHT, HER PRECISE DREAMS OF SWINGS AND THE MERRY-GO-ROUND
RUSH INTO A HOWLING OF ABSTRACTIONS.
WIDESPREAD MUTATION DRIFTS FROM ONE BIRD SPECIES TO THE NEXT,
AND THE FARMER IN LAOS, HIS INVESTMENTS IN A FLOCK OF CHICKENS,
NEED OF CLOTHING AND FOOD FOR HIS CHILDREN IS OBLITERATED IN DAYS
IN THE FECES-SULLIED NARROWNESS OF A COOP.
THIS BLUE RIVER OF CONTAGION FLUNG WIDE IN THE MUZZY MORNING LIGHT
OF ANOTHER DAY LEAVES ME DIZZY AND SLICED
LIKE THE EPIDEMIC OF BLAME AND GREED,
EVER ACCUSING THE OTHER IN A WORLD
SPIRALING CLOSER INTO AN ABSENCE OF POETRY.
I ENJOY TRAVELING
AND I TRY EVERY YEAR OR TWO TO PLAN AN EXTENSIVE TRIP,
AND I ALWAYS CARRY A SMALL TRAVEL JOURNAL WITH ME WHEN I GO...
AND TAKE NOTES ALONG THE WAY,
HAVING FAITH THAT, EVENTUALLY, THEY WILL FIND THEIR PLACE IN A POEM.
AND THIS POEM IS CALLED "PORTO GRANDE, CAPE VERDE ISLANDS."
AND PORTO GRANDE IS ONE OF THE MAIN ISLANDS
IN THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.
IT'S LOCATED ABOUT 400 MILES OFF THE WESTERN COAST OF AFRICA.
IN THE TOWN OF SAO VICENTE PROTRUDING RIBS OF STRAY DOGS
NUMBER THE LONG HISTORY OF HUNGER ON THIS ISLAND,
WHERE ONLY THE ACACIA TREE IS GREEN.
NARROW ROADS WIND UP MILES OF VOLCANIC LEDGES
THROUGH A LUNAR LANDSCAPE,
PAST A STUCCO HOUSE PARTIALLY BUILT
WHILE INSIDE THE HEAT MYSTIFIES CRYING CHILDREN
WHO LONG FOR A TASTE OF FISH.
AT THE END OF THE ROAD, BEACHES OF BLACK SAND
AND VACANT TIME SHARES REMIND ME
OF A GHOST TOWN IN A MOVIE I ONCE SAW.
THE MAIN CHARACTER LED BY A MIRAGE CRAWLED HIS WAY
THROUGH DUST INTO ASH AND DEATH.
SOME OF THE MEN ON THIS ISLAND SELL SHELLS ON A STRING
FOR A BOTTLE OF GROG,
THE DRINK THAT NUMBS THEIR SENSES AND EATS THEIR ORGANS ALIVE.
IN THE LATE AFTERNOON, THERE ARE WOMEN WITH SMOOTH DARK SKIN
AND HAIR THAT REFLECTS THE ROTATING SUN
WIND AND TURN AND HUSTLE THEIR BRUISES BODIES
AND A CAPRICIOUS TOURIST BETWEEN THE ALLEY AND A MARKET FRONT.
STILL, THERE IS BEAUTY ON THIS ISLAND WITHOUT RAIN,
IN THE WAY A DISCARDED PLASTIC BAG SKIPS ALONG A DESERTED SOCCER FIELD
OF SAND AND CATCHES ONTO THE GOALIE NET
STRUNG WITH FISH LINE.
HOW IT SWELLS TO THE MUSIC COMING FROM A TRANSISTOR RADIO
AND THE DANCE MOVEMENTS OF AN OLD COUPLE
WHO KNOW THE SOLACE OF HARD LABOR AND THE READY COMFORT
IN A MEAGER SERVING OF CORN AND BEANS ON A PLATE
PIECED TOGETHER BY THEIR OWN JOINED HANDS.
AS DAVID MENTIONED, I TEACH CREATIVE WRITING HERE AT THE COLLEGE,
AND I TRY TO, UM...
TALK WITH MY STUDENTS
ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FORM AND CONTENT,
AND I TELL THEM, "FORM IS CONTENT, CONTENT IS FORM."
THE CONTENT OF YOUR POEM CAN BE, UM--
WHAT DO I WANNA SAY-- REINFORCED.
THE CONTENT OF YOUR POEM CAN BE REINFORCED BY THE FORM YOUR POEM TAKES.
AND THIS NEXT POEM IS CALLED "THE WAR WIDOW,"
AND IT'S WRITTEN IN A SERIES OF COUPLETS,
AND THEN THE FINAL COUPLET ISN'T REALLY--
IT'S NOT A COUPLET.
IT'S JUST A SINGLE LINE, INDICATIVE OF WHAT'S HAPPENED
TO THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN THESE TWO PEOPLE.
AND IT'S CALLED "THE WAR WIDOW."
SHE KNOWS BY HIS BODY POSTURE THAT HE'S GETTING READY TO TELL THE STORY,
THE LAND MINE HIS COMRADE LOST HIS LEGS TO,
SIZZLING AND CHARRED,
THE CRACKLING THAT CAME BEFORE THE EXPLOSION,
THE ECHOING IN THE EARDRUM.
SHE HAS ENDURED THIS TELLING OVER AND OVER, FIRST IN A LETTER,
THEN ON THE RIDE HOME AFTER HIS PLANE LANDED, HIS TOUR EXPIRED.
BUT IT IS NEVER OVER, THE WAY EVEN THE MOST DELICATE HAND CAN CLENCH
AND MAKE A FIST, HIS TELLING BROODS INTO EVENING MEALS,
A WALK WITH THEIR DAUGHTER,
WHILE PULLING WEEDS IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN,
UNDER WHAT HE THINKS IS AN AFTERNOON ARTILLERY RAID.
HOW SWIFT THE TRANSITION FROM TOMATOES TO MORTAR,
FROM CHANGING THE OIL IN THE CAR TO A SWIFT BODY ROLL FOR COVER.
EVEN THE DOG MOVES IN WIDE CIRCLES AROUND HIM.
NOW HE'S LEFT HER, AND HIS BOOTS' PATTERN IN THE SNOW,
A FRENZIED RUN FROM THE HOUSE ALONG THE FROZEN POND,
THE TAIL OF HIS SCARF SWEEPING A TRAIL
BETWEEN THE FOOTPRINTS OF TWO WORLDS--
HIS, HERS.
THEN STILL AS THE SNOW FALLING JUST BEFORE THE WOODS,
HE TURNS THINNING INTO BROKEN BRANCHES
LIKE BONES UNDER THE TOPS OF WHIRLING TREES,
AND SHE CLOSES THE CURTAINS, THE WINDOW COLD AS A GOLD RING.
THE NEXT COUPLE POEMS THAT I'M GOING TO READ GREW OUT OF A--
IN 2008, I HAD A FULBRIGHT TO TRAVEL THROUGH RUSSIA
WITH ABOUT 18 OTHER ACADEMICS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.
AND I HAD DONE SOME READING ABOUT THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD,
BUT UNTIL I REALLY GOT TO ST. PETERSBURG,
UM, WHICH WAS CALLED "LENINGRAD" THEN,
IT WAS ACTUALLY BEING THERE
THAT I WAS ABLE TO PUT SOME PIECES TOGETHER OF HISTORY.
AND I THINK FOR MANY OF US, WHEN WE STUDY HISTORY IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL,
IT OFTEN IS LESS THAN EXCITING.
BUT TO BE ABLE TO TRAVEL
AND TO BE ABLE TO PUT PIECES IN PLACE, PEOPLE IN PLACE,
AGAINST THAT HISTORICAL BACKDROP, I FIND THAT TO BE PRETTY EXCITING.
AND DURING THE NAZI SEIGE OF LENINGRAD,
WHICH TOOK PLACE BETWEEN 1941 AND '43,
THE CITY WAS ENTIRELY CUT OFF FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD,
AND THE SEIGE WAS ONE OF THE MOST GRUESOME EPISODES OF WORLD WAR II.
NEARLY 3 MILLION PEOPLE ENDURED IT, AND JUST UNDER HALF OF THEM DIED,
STARVING, FREEZING TO DEATH,
MOST IN THE SIX MONTHS BETWEEN OCTOBER OF '41 AND APRIL OF '42
WHEN THE TEMPERATURE WAS OFTEN 30 DEGREES BELOW ZERO.
AND THIS POEM IS CALLED "SETTING THE TABLE-- LENINGRAD, 1941."
THERE'S A REFERENCE TO "NEVSKY PROSPEKT" IN THIS POEM,
AND NEVSKY PROSPEKT CUTS RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE OF ST. PETERSBURG
AND RUNS FROM ONE END OF THE CITY TO THE OTHER END.
"SETTING THE TABLE-- LENINGRAD, 1941."
THE FATHER TRADED THE OLD BLACK RADIO FOR A SINGLE REMAINING BROWN EGG,
AND FROM GRAIN HIDDEN IN THE CUPBOARD,
THE MOTHER SPUN BATTER FOR A PANCAKE FOR THE GIRL'S BIRTHDAY BREAKFAST.
THE FAMILY NEVER HEARD SHOSTAKOVICH SPEAK ON THE RADIO
ABOUT HIS 7th SYMPHONY,
HOW LIFE IN LENINGRAD WAS GOING ON AS USUAL.
EVEN THOUGH LEAVES FELL BETWEEN THE DARK CONTOURS OF BARRICADES
AND A YOUNG BOY WALKED ALONG NEVSKY PROSPEKT,
TWO GAS MASKS OVER HIS SHOULDER AND HIS DOG IN HIS ARMS.
TO SEIZE THE RHYTHM OF A NORMAL DAY,
THE MOTHER TURNED A SINGLE PLATE INTO A FESTIVE TABLE
IN HONOR OF HER DAUGHTER'S BIRTHDAY,
A CHINA PLATE RENDS IN BOLD BLUE AND GOLD AND YELLOW TOO,
OUTLYING THE GLISTENING EDGES OF THE PANCAKE
WHILE THE SIM OF OURS SAT COLD.
NO TEA,
THE SOUP LAST NIGHT WAS BROTH, NO SALT, NO BREAD TO DIP.
MONTHS LATER, A CROW WILL WANDER ONTO THE ROOF OF AN EMPTY APARTMENT BUILDING,
TIP ITS HEAD AND SCARE AWAY FROM THE REFLECTION IN A BROKEN WINDOW,
BOLD BLUE, GOLD, YELLOW TOO.
IT WILL FASTEN ITSELF TO A HIGH BRANCH WHEN THE BOMBS
AND SHELLS STRIKE HITLER'S TARGET,
AND IT WILL WAIT FOR THE GRILLED CORPSES BALANCED ON WINTER SNOWS,
NECKS, LEGS EXPOSED ON SIDEWALKS,
LONG WHITE TABLES WITHOUT A CENTERPIECE.
THIS NEXT POEM IS CALLED "MOTHER RUSSIA"
AND IT'S ABOUT AN EXCHANGE I HAD WITH A BABUSHKA, AND, UM...
WELL, I'LL JUST GO AHEAD AND READ IT.
IT'S CALLED "MOTHER RUSSIA."
TODAY, ONE YEAR LATER, BABUSHKA, I FILL THE BIRD FEEDER IN MEMORY OF YOU.
I CUT SLIPS OF LILIES OF THE VALLEY AND SNOWDROPS FROM THE GARDEN
AND TIE THIS GLIMPSE OF SPRING TOGETHER
WITH A STRING IN A VASE GIVEN TO ME BY MY OWN GRANDMOTHER.
THIS, TOO, I DO IN MEMORY OF YOU, BABUSHKA.
YOU STOOD OUTSIDE THE SUBWAY STATION ON NEVSKY PROSPEKT
IN A TORN SWEATER AND HELD OUT TO ME A PLEA
TO BUY A BREATH OF A BOUQUET
TIED WITH A SHOESTRING FROM YOUR WORK BOOT.
NO HAND GESTURE COULD EXPLAIN TO YOU THE FLOWERS
WOULD FADE WITH ME TRAVELING ON AN OVERNIGHT TRAIN TO MOSCOW
TO VISIT CHILDREN IN AN ORPHANAGE WHOSE PARENTS DRANK AWAY THE BREAD,
THE CABBAGE SOUP, AND THE MATTRESS.
IN PLACE OF THE FLOWERS, I BOUGHT BIRDSEED FROM YOU,
WRAPPED INSIDE THE TOE OF AN OLD SOCK,
AND ALL OF RUSSIA AS I WOULD NOT WANT TO REMEMBER HER,
I SAW IN YOUR FACE AND HANDS, BABUSHKA.
YOUR GREY GUMS AND MISSING FINGER AND THE DARK WATERS
OF THE ST. PETERSBURG CANAL ROLLING BACK AT ME
IN THE SHUTTER OF YOUR EYE.
THERE'S SUMMER AHEAD, BABUSHKA.
YOU WILL GATHER BERRIES FROM A PAIL TO CUP IN YOUR HAND,
FOR CHANGE FROM A TOURIST WAITING FOR THE SUBWAY,
AND I WILL THINK OF YOU
WHILE I WATCH SQUIRRELS MANEUVER THEIR WAY
UP THE POLE TO THE FEEDER, PILLAGE SEED,
AND SCATTER BIRDS WITHOUT A FIGHT.
THIS NEXT POEM IS CALLED "ORPHANAGE 40,"
AND THAT SAME SUMMER THAT I TRAVELED THROUGHOUT RUSSIA ON A FULBRIGHT,
WE SPENT A COUPLE DAYS IN MOSCOW
AND THEN DROVE ALMOST TWO HOURS OUTSIDE OF THE CITY, AND I WONDERED--
WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO VISIT AN ORPHANAGE,
AND THE EERINESS OF THAT ORPHANAGE BEING SO FAR REMOVED
FROM ANY KIND OF CIVILIZATION CERTAINLY STAYED WITH ME...
BUT MORE PROFOUND
WERE THE CONDITIONS THAT I SAW THESE CHILDREN WERE IN.
AND, UM, THIS IS A POEM ABOUT THEIR EATING.
UM, IT'S CALLED "ORPHANAGE 40."
A KIND OF SLANT THE WAY A BOWL AND SPOON
AND TINY FINGERS WILL TILT THE BOTTOM OF THE ROUND CENTER
TO A SMALL MOUTH FOR THE LAST OF THE WATERY CABBAGE SOUP.
IF SHE CAN HOLD ON TO LICK THE SPOON FROM TOP TO BOTTOM,
THE BOWL FROM THE RIM DOWN BEFORE ANOTHER PAIR OF DIRTY HANDS
SNATCHES IN AN ODD DANCE TO TASTE THE SALT ON THESE TOOLS
OF CIVILITY,
IT WILL BE A GOOD DAY.
AND I'LL READ JUST ONE MORE POEM.
I WAS PART OF A PROGRAM IN THE CHURCH THAT I ATTEND.
IT WAS CALLED "THE STEPHEN MINISTRY PROGRAM,"
AND THEY TRAIN LAY PEOPLE TO BE PAIRED UP WITH SOMEONE IN THE CONGREGATION
WHO'S GOING THROUGH, UM, IT COULD BE DIVORCE, IT COULD BE ILLNESS,
IT COULD BE FACING DEATH,
AND ONE OF THE COUPLES THAT I WORKED WITH,
THE MAN WAS FADING VERY FAST,
AND HE CAME HOME ONE AFTERNOON
WHEN I WAS VISITING WITH THE WIFE
AND HE WAS COMPLETELY JUST...
DISTRESSED.
HE HAD GONE TO THE STORE TO FIND A JAR OF PICKLE RELISH
AND THEY HAD MOVED IT,
AND FOR US, YOU KNOW HOW TRAUMATIC IT CAN BE WHEN WE GO TO THE GROCERY STORE
AND THE OBJECT'S BEEN MOVED...
AND IMAGINE NOT HAVING THE BEST OF SIGHT OR THE BEST OF HEARING,
AND HOW THAT MIGHT BE VERY UPSETTING TO AN ELDERLY PERSON.
IT'S CALLED "THE ERRAND."
THEY'VE MOVED THE PICKLE RELISH AGAIN, HE'S TOO PROUD TO ASK FOR HELP
AND STEPS SIDEWAYS ALONG AISLES WITH ETHNIC FOOD,
PAST PASTA SHAPED LIKE QUESTION MARKS
AND FEELS THE SAME CONFUSION HE FELT DURING THE WAR
WHEN GUNFIRE SHOCKED HIS BOOTS OFF HIS FEET
AND BLEW HIS BUDDY OVER A RACK OF TREE LIMBS,
THE SKIN OF HIM STRETCHED OUT ON A BRANCH.
IT WAS ALMOST DARK THEN, NIGHT,
AND HE THOUGHT HE WAS RUNNING AWAY FROM THE ENEMY.
THEN A PIERCING RED FLASH AND A HOT BURN TO HIS KNEE
SENT HIM LOW TO THE GROUND
AND CRAWLING BACK THE WAY HE HAD COME.
NOW HE DOUBLES BACK THROUGH THE STORE STILL LOOKING FOR THE JARS
THAT MUST HAVE DISAPPEARED OR ARE OUT-OF-STOCK.
HE TURNS AWAY FROM THE FACES THAT LOOK LIKE THEY WANT TO HELP HIM.
HE LIFTS HIS FEET A LITTLE HIGHER AS IF TO SAY,
"I AM NOT OLD, FOOLISH, FORGOTTEN."
HE PLACES A GREEN PEPPER IN HIS CART--
SOMETHING TO WARD OFF THE YOUNG SCRAPPY FELLOW
IN AN APRON WHO'S ON TO HIM,
THAT HE IS LOST, CONFUSED UNDER FLUORESCENT LIGHTS
AND CHRISTMAS MUSIC
AND MOVING TOWARD A FORCE MORE POWERFUL THAN ANY FIRE.
THANK YOU.
(applause)
>> WELL, THIS IS SOMETHING I GOTTA GET READY.
GET THE STUFF OVER HERE, WE'LL...
I THINK I GOT TO KNOW GARY ABOUT THE TIME
WHEN FRED SEBULSKE WAS DOING "ENDGAME," BECKETT'S PLAY,
HERE IN TOWN, AND MAKING QUITE A STIR IN THE PRESS AND ELSEWHERE.
GARY HAS KIND OF AN ABSURDIST QUALITY ABOUT HIS WRITING,
BUT AT TIMES, IT COMES IN A VARIETY OF WAYS
THAT ARE VERY SENSIBLE AT THE SAME TIME.
I WANT TO READ YOU HIS BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE.
HE'S A BYPRODUCT OF THE NUCLEAR AGE.
HE ATTENDED CATHOLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL,
DURING WHICH PERIOD ONE NUN WAS MOVED TO COMMENT,
"I'LL BE SURPRISED IF HE LIVES TO BE TEN." (audience laughing)
KORRECK LATER ATTENDED PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL,
WHERE BETWEEN TIMES EITHER HIDING IN HIS LOCKER
OR BEING SUSPENDED BY HIS BELT LOOPS, IN SAME, DISCOVERED POETRY.
HE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF ATTENDING GRAND RAPIDS JUNIOR COLLEGE--
WHICH IS US--
THOMAS JEFFERSON COLLEGE AT GRAND VALLEY,
AND MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY, FROM WHICH HE RECEIVED A DEGREE IN JOURNALISM.
HIS STYLE IS ELEGIAC, WHICH IS REALLY VERY POINTED.
HIS REFERENCES RANGE FROM RUMI, RILKE, POUND, AND ELIOT,
TO SZYMBORSKA, CHACAL, SALONE, AND RITSOS.
PLEASE, WELCOME GARY KORRECK.
(applause)
>> WELL, IT'S PRETTY EXCITING FOR ME TO GET UP AND PERFORM.
I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PLAY THE AIR GUITAR, SO THIS IS EXCITEMENT.
THE FIRST POEM-- I WANNA LOOSEN UP A LITTLE BIT,
SO THIS IS ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF CELEBRITY,
AND I THINK YOU'LL RECOGNIZE WHO IT IS RIGHT AWAY.
THE POEM'S ENTITLED "FREE PARIS."
JUST ONE SMALL BIT OF BACKGROUND...
PARIS HILTON WAS UNJUSTLY PRISONED FOR ABOUT TWO DAYS A WHILE BACK,
SO THAT'S WHERE THE "FREE PARIS" COMES FROM.
STOP THE PRESSES, THE AIRWAVES, THE WORLD FROM SPINNING.
THERE IS MEANNESS, MOMMY.
HERE, EVERYONE IS SO MEAN, MOMMY.
UNFAIR, IT IS UNFAIR.
ALL THIS LEGAL STUFF GETS TANGLED IN MY HAIR.
WHERE IS MY STYLIST, MY SHOES, MY CELL,
MY GOD THERE MUST BE SOMETHING HAPPENING TONIGHT.
SO BORED, SO BORED, WITH ALL THIS RECKLESS POINTING.
AND MOMMY, THEY'RE SNAPPING AT ME,
AND THAT MAN IN BLACK, EW, NOT IN STYLE.
COULD YOU MAKE HIM STOP?
UNFAIR, JUST SO UNFAIR, NOW I CAN'T GO SHOPPING ANYWHERE.
THERE IS NO REASON FOR ME TO BE TREATED LIKE A CLERK IN STORES I NEVER GO TO.
OH, MOMMY, UNFAIR UNFAIR UNFAIR,
NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE THAT I AM SUFFERING SO.
A DAY OR TWO OF LIFE DISCARDED LIKE YESTERDAY'S DRESS,
LIKE A DOLL PARTY, LIKE A MOMENT THAT NEVER ARRIVED.
AND HERE I JUST SIT AND SIT, SO UNFAIR, IT IS JUST SO UNFAIR.
THE GUARDS ARE MEAN AND TALK LIKE CHER. (audience laughing)
I DID NOTHING SO WRONG TO DESERVE THIS.
EVEN JESUS GOT TO BE OUTSIDE!
MY GOD, STOP THIS DREAM FROM DREAMING, MOMMY.
SO UNFAIR, SO UNFAIR,
LIKE CALLOUS SERVANTS TOUCHING VINTAGE DINNERWARE.
WHO THINKS IT DOES NOT MATTER THAT I MUST FLY
THROUGH WINGLESS AND WITHOUT PURPOSE THROUGH PORCELAIN SKIES,
FOREIGN AIRPORTS, ENDLESS RED CARPETS WHERE OH SO DELICATELY I PAUSE
AND SMILE AT NO ONE, THE SMILE NO ONE DESERVES.
STOP, UNFAIR, UNFAIR!
TREATED LIKE SOME OUT-OF-WORK AU PAIR,
DEPRIVED OF PRIVILEGE RIGHTLY MINE,
THESE THREE DAYS LONG ENOUGH TO SHOW THE WORLD WHAT SUFFERING TRULY IS.
MOMMY, UNFAIR, IT IS TRULY UNFAIR, I NEED A WINDOW!
I NEED CENTRAL AIR!
I NEED A DRESS, I NEED SOME BLING, I NEED MY PICTURE TAKEN.
I AM READY TO SMILE THE SMILE NO ONE DESERVES,
FAN THE FLAME OF FAME, LEAVE THE MINIONS CRYING FOR MORE,
FOR JUSTICE OR WHATEVER.
OH MOMMY, IT IS SO UNFAIR UNFAIR UNFAIR,
AND O.M.G. WITH SUCH A LACK OF FLAIR.
THIS ONE'S CALLED "EAGLE HARBOR."
IT'S IN THE UPPER PENINSULA-- A TINY TOWN.
I THINK THERE'S ABOUT SIX PEOPLE LIVING IN IT.
I WENT THERE WITH SOME FRIENDS AND DOUBLED THE POPULATION.
(audience chuckling)
THE HIGHWAY AN ILLUSION, IT IS HISTORY WE ARE FOLLOWING
TO THIS PLACE.
ROCK FORMED OF FIRE, WATER RECONNECTING THE SKY.
THERE IS NO RUSH BUT THE FALLS AT EAGLE RIVER, WATER ON STONE,
A SYMPHONY OF REMAKING THE ARCHITECTURE OF A HIDDEN LANDSCAPE.
WE STAND BELOW, FEEL WHAT WE CANNOT SEE.
THIS IS ALL OF TIME, EASING LIKE A LEAF ONTO WATER,
INTO AND OUT OF SHADOWS,
PASSING OUT OF VIEW INTO DESCENDING LIGHT.
FOR A MOMENT, WE PAUSE, ACCEPT THE SILENCE,
SUBMISSIVE TO TIME AND PLACE AS HISTORY WE BECOME,
PUSHING ONWARD TOWARD THE EDGE.
I'M A HUGE BASEBALL FAN.
THIS IS A POEM ABOUT SOMEONE WHO...
EVEN I COULDN'T REMEMBER HIS NAME,
HENCE THE TITLE, "WATCHING WHAT'S-HIS-NAME HIS LAST TIME UP."
THERE'S AN EPIGRAM, WHICH I ALSO LIKE.
IT'S FROM CAMUS, "AN INDESCRIBABLE UNIVERSE
"IN WHICH A MAN ALLOWS HIMSELF
THE TORMENTING LUXURY OF FISHING IN A BATHTUB,
"KNOWING NOTHING WILL COME OF IT."
WATCHING THE FADING-HAIRED CATCHER SLOUCH TO THE PLATE
FOR HIS LAST TIME ON TELEVISION,
HE CARRIES ASH AND WOOD, CHEST HEAVING WITH 16 SEASONS,
CAP RAISED IN HAND TO WIPE EVENING FROM HIS BROW,
LIGHTS HIDE THE FURROWS UNDER HIS EYES,
HITCHING HIS BELT, SQUINTING AT THE GUM-CHEWING ROOKIE PITCHER,
SHOULDERING HIS BAT AS IF IT WERE A GIRDER,
HANDS STICKY, NECK AND SHOULDERS TIGHT, A STRAIN TO REMEMBER.
THE LONG DRY SEASONS, THE BUS RIDES TO PLACES BARELY FOUND ON A MAP,
DUREM, ROCKY MOUNT, MARS HILL, ABERDEEN CITY,
COLD EGGS, GREY HASH BROWNS, GREASY COFFEE,
A LEGACY SPENT IN THE DARKEST PART OF SUMMER'S GARDEN.
NOW, DIGGING IN, SPIKES IN DIRT FEELING STRANGELY LIKE QUICKSAND
BEFORE THE YAWNS OF CHILDREN POPPING CUPS,
WAITING FOR FOUL BALLS, THE FIRST PITCH EXPLODES,
SMALL, DEFIANT-- HE BACKS AWAY-- A STRIKE.
THE WEIGHT OF THE STADIUM ON HIS BAT.
SECOND PITCH-- HARD SWING-- A CRACK STINGS HIS SHOULDERS.
STRIKE TWO.
HE STEPS OUT, SURVEYS THE RIGHT FIELD SEATS.
RUTH CALLED HIS SHOT ONCE.
RUTH, THAT SUPERHUMAN FIGURE TO CHASE WITH BOOTED GROUNDERS,
LOST FLY BALLS, WILD THROWS, A TICKET HOME.
THE THIRD PITCH, TOO SOON, LIKE ALL OF HIS 37 YEARS, HE SWINGS--
A DULL THUD, WOOD ON HORSEHIDE, A WEAK GROUNDER TO SHORT.
HE RUNS, HIS LAST CHANCE OUT, JUST CATCHING SIGHT OF THE BALL
SAILING OVER THE FIRST BASEMAN'S HEAD.
HE TRIES FOR SECOND, HEART IN FRONT OF HIM,
BREATH HARD, COALS EYES BIRD--
BLURDING-- (chuckling) BLURRED AND BURNING,
LEGS STIFF DIVING HEADFIRST INTO DUST.
LYING IN THE SHADOWS, FINGERS INCHES FROM SECOND,
SWEAT PLAYING ON HIS FACE, COOL EVENING PRESSES DOWN.
HE ROLLS TO HIS SIDE,
RISES BENEATH THE ROAR OF AN OVERHEAD PLANE.
THIS IS, UM...
THERE WAS AN INCIDENT IN MUMBAI A FEW YEARS AGO WHERE A HOTEL WAS...
BOMBED, AND I DON'T THINK ANYONE'S FIGURED OUT WHO'S DONE IT YET,
ALTHOUGH LOTS OF PEOPLE CLAIM TO HAVE DONE IT.
THIS IS CALLED "WALKING IN MUMBAI."
A FATHER ON HIS WAY TO MARKET, A SMALL GIRL LATE TO DINNER,
A MERCHANT CLOSING HIS SHOP.
THEY ARE FRAGMENTS OF A MOMENT LOST EVEN TO US AS WE STUDY THE RESIDUE,
CONSIDER THE MEANING OF LIVING TOO CLOSE,
OF WALKING IN MUMBAI.
SOLDIERS ENTER THE BUILDINGS.
WE HAVE BEEN TOLD THIS IS A TERRORIST ACT, CLAIMED BY NO ONE IN PARTICULAR.
WE ARE TOLD SOME HAVE BEEN KILLED OR CAPTURED.
EYEWITNESSES DESCRIBE THE HORROR, THE BODY COUNTS RISE,
NUMBERS CRAWL ACROSS THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN.
HE HAD FORGOTTEN WHAT HE WAS SUPPOSED TO PURCHASE,
SHE HAD BEEN PLAYING WITH A STRAY DOG,
HE WAS TIRED AND BUSINESS HAD BEEN SLOW.
LIFE DOES NOT PAUSE FOR GRIEF.
WE CARRY IT WITH US,
PHOTOGRAPHS ALREADY AGED, FACES NO ONE REMEMBERS,
LAKES OF ASH IN AN AMBER SKY,
UNSEEN BY US AND BY OTHER PASSERSBY,
WALKING IN MUMBAI.
THIS IS CALLED "A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR GITAMATTI DEMOORE."
HE WORKED AT-- HE WAS A GREETER AT WALMART ON BLACK FRIDAY
AND AT 5:00 A.M., A BUNCH OF THE CUSTOMERS STORMED THROUGH THE DOORS.
THEY COULDN'T WAIT.
"WE WISH YOU A WALMART CHRISTMAS," HIS SMILE SAYS FOR JUST A MOMENT,
A WILLING GREETER UNTIL THE DOORS BURST OPEN,
A HOLIDAY EXPLODES, HIS BRAIN A PORTRAIT OF FEET--
MEMORY-- AN OVEN OVERFLOWING OF SILVER AND GOLD,
STARS BURSTING, GRANDMAS WITH HOOVES, TOO CLOSE, TOO CLOSE,
FALLING PRICES EVERYWHERE.
LET NOTHING YOU DISMAY-- THE EXACT CAUSE OF DEATH HAS NOT BEEN DETERMINED.
NO, THE EXACT REASON FOR TURNING CUSTOMERS AWAY,
SOME WHO HAVE WAITED NEARLY A FULL DAY FOR A RUNNING START AT CHRISTMAS,
ONWARD CHRISTMAS SOLDIERS, DROPPING, SHOPPING AS TO WAR,
HOLD FIRM TO WHAT IS YOURS ABOVE THE SHOUTS, THE LOUDSPEAKERS,
NONE SHALL BE SAVED WHO DO NOT TAKE THE DIRECT PATH.
GOD REST YOU MERRY GENTLE MAN,
WHOSE NAME DOES NOT RESONATE WITH THE CROWD.
NONE WHO KNOW IT OR WILL PROCLAIM IT.
HIS MOTHER WILL HEAR THE NEWS ON TELEVISION.
WE THREE KINGS AND THEN SOME, WHOSE COLLECTIVE MOUTHS SALIVATE
IN SEARCH OF A DISTANT SIGN, A GUIDING LIGHT SET AT 50 PERCENT OFF,
A 50 INCH PLASMA H.D. T.V. FOR $798,
A COMPACT UPRIGHT VIC VACUUM FOR $28,
A 10.2 MEGAPIXEL DIGITAL CAMERA FOR $69,
POPULAR DVDS FOR AS LITTLE AS $9.
OH, TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY.
LET ALL ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT AT THIS SUDDENLY QUIET MOMENT.
SOMEONE IS REMOVED FROM THE ENTRY WAY-- SORRY, THEY LOSE OUT.
"LET THE REST OF US GO ON!
"WE'VE WAITED NEARLY A DAY
"FOR A BIG-SCREEN PLASMA FIX, A BOX SET DVD!"
FALLING PRICES EVERYWHERE.
THIS IS A POEM ABOUT A--
A FRIEND OF MINE TOOK A PHOTOGRAPH OF A STATUE OF PUSHKIN IN ST. PETERSBURG,
AND THERE WAS A PIGEON RESTING ON HIS HAND.
IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH TIME IS SUSPENDED,
EACH BECOMES THE OTHER,
AS ONCE STATIONARY YET PREPARED FOR FLIGHT.
THE ARC OF POETRY BALANCED ON AN OUTSTRETCHED HAND,
A GESTURE EXTENDED TO THE SIMPLEST OF CREATURES,
YET ONE AWARE ENOUGH TO CONSIDER A VIEW OF THE WORLD
WORDS CAN NEVER ADEQUATELY DESCRIBE.
THE SKY SLATE AND SUNLESS, THE MASTER'S TONGUE SILENT,
HIS GAZE DISTANT, THE VISITOR PERCHED ON HIS THUMB,
NUANCED IN SHADES OF GRAY, YET NOTHING LOST IN TRANSLATION.
FELLOW EXILES, THEY SHARE A COMMON IDIOM, BEYOND THE LIMITS OF PLACE,
ALIVE ETERNALLY IN THE POWER OF THE MOMENT.
ANOTHER BASEBALL POEM.
PEOPLE MY AGE WILL REMEMBER THIS PERSON-- OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT, TOO.
THERE'S A PITCHER NAMED MARK FIDRYCH,
WHO PLAYED FOR THE TIGERS FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS.
HIS NICKNAME WAS "THE BIRD," AFTER BIG BIRD.
THIS IS "IN MEMORIAM."
A TOAST TO THE UNKEMPT GOD,
THIS FRAGMENT OF NEON PLUCKED FROM THE EYE OF A STAR,
A SOLITARY BURST ACROSS THE HEART OF A BLUE SUMMER,
WHO TENDED CLAY AND GRAVEL,
OWNED THE GREEN AFTERNOONS AND SMOKY NIGHTS,
REFUSED TO AGE BEFORE OUR EYES, FLEW TOO HIGH, TOO QUICKLY.
YET AS QUICKLY AS HE ROSE, HIS FLAME THE QUICKER SPENT,
AND YET HE SAW WHAT FEW CAN SEE
STILL SMILING ON HIS DESCENT.
THIS IS A POEM THAT'S CALLED "A SUMMER IN THE CITY."
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, A YOUNG MAN WENT ON A RAMPAGE IN GRAND RAPIDS
AND KILLED EIGHT PEOPLE.
WARM SUN ON PAVEMENT, CHILDREN PLAYING IN THE STREETS,
BEHIND DRAWN SHADES, A STORM NO ONE HEARS.
DEATH SLITHERS FROM PLACE TO PLACE,
A DARK WHISPER ECHOES THROUGH THE TREES.
DESPAIR, THE FEEL OF RAGE,
A BODY WITHOUT PRESENCE, THE ABSENCE OF TOUCH.
THE DAY PLAYS ITSELF OUT,
AND AN ELONGATED SIGH FROM EMPTY FACES
IN NEED OF ONE LAST SHOT AT LIFE.
EIGHT DEAD--
A CITY LEFT TO MOURN ITS LIVING.
HANDS SEARCH THE BROKEN NIGHT, HUNGRY FOR SOMETHING TO LOVE AGAIN.
THIS IS A POEM CALLED "CAMPING IN AUTUMN."
IT BEGINS WITH A LIST,
THIS ART OF DOING MUCH FOR THE PURPOSE OF DOING LESS.
THERE MUST BE FOOD FOR AN EXTRA DAY, GOOD TWINE, A SHARP KNIFE,
A CLEAN HATCHET, PLENTY OF MATCHES, COFFEE, SPARE BATTERIES--
EVERYONE MUST HAVE A LIGHT.
IT IS A RITUAL OF SMALL TASKS--
GATHER WOOD, SET OUT FOOD, STOKE THE FIRE, PUT ON WATER,
CLEAN THE TENT,
SHAKE OUT THE SLEEPING BAGS, CLEAN THE DISHES.
EVERYONE MUST HAVE A LIGHT.
NO TELEPHONES, NO TELEVISION, NO EMAIL--
A PEACE THAT PREVAILS
LIKE A BLANKET BEING DRAWN OVER THE BODY ON A COLD NIGHT.
THIS IS A POEM ABOUT A WOMAN-- I DIDN'T MEET HER, EXACTLY--
BUT IT WAS AN INDIAN RESTAURANT IN FLORIDA.
I GO TO SPRING TRAINING EACH YEAR.
AND WHILE WE WERE DINING, THIS WOMAN CAME THROUGH IN A PINK OUTFIT--
WITH SOMETHING KIND OF LIKE A NEGLIGEE
AND DANCED AND RUBBED EVERYBODY THE HEAD, SO...
(audience laughing)
SHE HAD A CARD THAT SAID "THE ART OF SILK,"
DEFINING WHAT SHE DID.
SO, THIS IS "THE ART OF SILK."
IN THE CROWDED MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT,
WHERE THE BUFFET MAY BE HAD FOR 9.95 PLUS A DRINK,
PAST THE STEAMING FOOD TRAYS,
ABOVE THE AROMA OF GENTLY SEASONED MEATS AND VEGETABLES,
BEYOND THE SUBTLE COLOR OF PLASTIC DAFFODILS, DUSTY,
AND WINE CARAFES,
AMID THE TABLES OF DINERS--
ARMS RAISED, A SMILE SIMPLY WORN, DELORES RUNNION OF CLEVELAND, OHIO,
BECOMES "SAMIRA."
SHE MOVES AS SHADOW, TRAILING A PINK SCARF BEHIND HER.
EXOTIC ONE WITH DIMPLED BELLY AND DIMPLED MEMORIES--
SAMIRA OF 27 YEARS IN FLORIDA,
FROM REALTY COMPANY SECRETARY TO WAITRESS,
TO DREAM OF MEN WHO DREAM OF SAMIRA'S,
AND WOMEN WHO DARE NOT DREAM.
SAMIRA, WHO GLIDES BETWEEN THE TABLES, TRAILING A PINK SCARF BEHIND HER.
SAMIRA, WHO'S HAIR IS BARELY BLOND, EYES TOO DEEP TO BE NATURALLY BLUE.
SAMIRA, WHOSE SMILE BELIES LITTLE, TRAILING A PINK SCARF BEHIND HER.
SAMIRA OF THE SYMBOLED FINGERS AND RINGED TOES,
SAMIRA WHO RUNS HER OWN SHOW,
SAMIRA THE ATTRACTION OF A SMOKY DOWNTOWN CAFE,
SAMIRA QUEEN OF MEATS AND VEGETABLES,
SAMIRA WHO WISHES FOR MORE AND LESS SIMULTANEOUSLY.
SAMIRA'S YOUNG AS SHE CAN IMAGINE.
SHE GLIDES BETWEEN THE TABLES, ARMS RAISED, SMILE INTACT,
TRAILING A PINK SCARF BEHIND HER.
THIS IS A STORY-- THIS IS A POEM ABOUT--
I THINK YOU CAN PROBABLY FIGURE OUT WHAT'S GOING ON,
BUT JUST IN CASE, IT'S DEALING WITH ALZHEIMER'S.
IT'S CALLED "STRANGERS IN THE DOORWAY."
TWO PEOPLE STAND IN THE DOORWAY OF THE ALZHEIMER'S WARD,
THEIR EYES FIXED ON THOSE WHO HAVE BECOME STRANGERS TO THEM.
HE SEES A WOMAN WHO NO LONGER REMEMBERS HIS TOUCH,
THE STORIES BEHIND THE BOOK OF PHOTOGRAPHS HE CARRIES
NOR THE PHOTOGRAPHS,
WHOSE MEANING WILL NOT OUTLIVE HER.
SHE STUDIES A MAN WHO ONCE SWEPT HER IN HIS ARMS,
WHO NO LONGER SHARES HER EMBRACE,
NO LONGER ACKNOWLEDGES THE BRUSH OF HER CHEEK AGAINST HIS,
NO LONGER KNOWS THAT SHE WAS ONCE HIS OWN, ALONE.
TODAY THESE TWO LOST TO EVERYONE ELSE, FIND EACH OTHER,
AS IF FOR THE FIRST TIME THEIR EYES LOCK IN RECOGNITION
OF WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE SOMEONE, HOWEVER LOST.
IN THEIR HEARTS, THEY STILL KNOW
THOSE THINGS WITHOUT TOUCH LOSE THEIR MEANING.
THEY TURN WITH HANDS HELD TOWARD THE PAIR IN THE DOORWAY.
THEY SMILE AS ONE MIGHT SMILE AT PASSING TOURISTS,
RETURNED TO EACH OTHER.
ONE IN THE DOORWAY TURNS TO THE OTHER AND SAYS, "LET THEM GO.
"THEY ARE HAPPY."
THE OTHER NODS.
THEY GO THEIR SEPARATE WAYS.
THIS ONE'S CALLED "W.M.D."
IT'S FAIRLY SELF-EVIDENT, I THINK.
ONE.
A MOTHER SEARCHES THROUGH DUST IN HER HANDS HELD TIGHT,
A SMALL SWEATER, ONE BUTTON MISSING.
TWO.
SOLDIERS, WEARY OF DEATH, PLAY CARDS, USE BUTTONS FOR MONEY.
THREE.
A CHILD'S HAND PULLED FROM RUBBLE,
CLUTCHING A BUTTON.
"LIGHT FROM MY GRANDMOTHER'S BEDROOM WINDOW."
IT WAS A DAY WARM WITH A HEART OF A YOUNG WOMAN,
YET DEATH WAS ALL AROUND HER.
GRAY SKIN, PALE EYES, HER HEAD UNABLE TO RIGHT ITSELF,
NOR SILENCE THE VOICES OF THE ORPHAN DREAMS
THAT FOLLOWED HER TO THIS PLACE.
OWN NAMES TO HER NOW ALIEN,
AS THIS AUGUST SUN REACHES DELICATE THROUGH THE GLASS
TO RUN ITS FINGERS THROUGH HER HAIR.
I HAVE ONE MORE THAT'S FAIRLY LENGTHY.
I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO WITH IT YET, SO I'LL READ IT AND...
PEOPLE WILL EITHER START NODDING OFF OR THEY'LL SAY "HMM" OR WHATEVER, SO...
IT'S CALLED "HAVING COFFEE WITH NOSTRADAMUS
"AND HIS MAYAN GIRLFRIEND AT AN ALL-NIGHT CAFE."
AND I'M GONNA READ-- EVEN THOUGH I DON'T LIKE DOING IT,
I'M GONNA READ THE NUMBERS, JUST SO YOU KNOW THERE'S PAUSES IN THERE.
AND AS NEAR AS I CAN FIGURE IT OUT FOR MYSELF,
IT'S ALMOST LIKE EACH ONE IS A SNAPSHOT...
ONLY EVEN THOUGH I'M READING IT-- IT TAKES SOME TIME TO READ IT--
YOU HAVE TO ENVISION THE SNAPSHOT HAPPENING QUICKLY,
ALMOST LIKE JUMP CUTS IN FILM.
THERE'S AN EPIGRAM WITH THIS ONE, TOO.
"WHAT YOU DO NOT BRING FORTH WILL DESTROY YOU."
IT'S THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS.
ONE.
AN EMPTY LANDSCAPE, VOID OF DIMENSION, TO WHICH WE HAVE COME, BONE-WEARY--
SOULLESS MOMENT, BALANCING LANGUAGE
ON EXTENDED FINGERS IN THE SMOKE-FILLED AIR.
MUSIC FADES INTO THE WALLPAPER.
WORDS DISSOLVE IN THE LIGHT.
THE MOON HOVERS, ANXIOUS,
A YELLOW EYE, DIM IN THIS COLORED GLASS.
TIME'S BREATH SIGHS FROM THE WEIGHT OF A DYING AGE--
DEATH, THE ANTIDOTE TO DEATH.
WE CANNOT LOVE WHAT WE CANNOT HAVE.
TWO.
A FAINT SMILE CROSSES HIS LIPS.
HE LOOKS VAGUELY INTO THE DISTANCE.
SHE STUDIES HER APPOINTMENT BOOK, SHAKES HER HEAD,
SAYS "THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE FUTURE."
THREE.
MUFFLED VOICES LOITER IN THE AIR, BLANK FACES, THOSE WHO WON'T FORGET US,
THOSE WE WILL NEVER REMEMBER.
FOUR.
DIM INCANDESCES, FLICKERING.
ONE HAND HOLDS A CIGARETTE, THE OTHER A BLUE LIGHTER.
SHE SMILES, INHALES--
THE END OF IT LINGERS LIKE A FUSE.
FIVE.
WITH WEARY EYES, WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR REFLECTION,
THE ROAD OUTSIDE, THE LACK OF DIRECTION,
STUCK ON PURPOSE,
IN EARLY MORNING FOG,
LEFT TO WONDER WHETHER WE ARE MORTAL
OR MERELY GODS OVERCOME WITH FEAR.
SIX.
HE SETS DOWN HIS CUP, WITHOUT LOOKING UP,
SPEAKS SOFTLY, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING,
"BUT I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT."
THEN, SOFTER STILL, "SALVATION IS THE BELIEF
"YOU ARE SOMEONE WORTH LOVING."
SEVEN.
THE TIDES ERASE THE BARRIER BETWEEN LOSS AND FORGETTING.
SO MUCH OF HUMAN HISTORY, THE AFTERMATH OF CATASTROPHE.
WE LOOK FOR ANSWERS IN THE SMALLEST OF THINGS--
THE OBSESSION TO OVERCOME ALL THAT IS,
TO ENGINEER AN ELEMENT THAT WILL SPLIT INFINITY.
EIGHT.
THEY MOVE TO LEAVE.
HE PICKS UP THE CHECK, SHE CLOSES HER BOOK OF MISSING DATES.
NINE.
DAWN RISES OVER THE DESERT, AN ETERNAL EARLY MORNING.
SOME WILL KNEEL, OTHERS SHAKE THEIR HEADS,
STILL OTHERS PROUDLY RAISE THEIR EYES, SHOUT THEIR PRAYERS TO THE SKY,
THE LOUDER TO OVERCOME ALL OTHER TRUTHS.
AND AT THIS MOMENT, THE STARS FALL SILENTLY INTO THE WATER,
ONE BY ONE, UNTIL AT LAST WE ARE FREE
TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
THANK YOU.
(applause)
>> (coughing) YOU SELLING IT?
>> (indistinct speaking).
(coughing) WHAT'S IT COSTING 'EM?
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> $9.95-- GARY'S SELLING IT.
ANTHOLOGY OF FOUR POETS THAT ALL WENT TO GRCC AT THE SAME TIME.
WE HAD A RAUCOUS BUNCH BACK THEN.
I NEARLY WAS KICKED OUT OF SCHOOL.
SO WAS FRANK SALAMONE.
WE PUBLISHED POEMS THAT HAD, AND STORIES THAT HAD,
FILTHY LANGUAGE IN THEM.
AND IT WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH.
I HAD PROFESSORS THAT STOOD UP FOR US.
AND BY THE TIME I LEFT HERE TO GO TO U. OF M.,
I ALREADY KNEW WHAT I WAS LIKE TO DEFEND YOUR WRITING AGAINST, UH...
RELIGIOUS BIGOTS, I GUESS WOULD BE THE WAY I'D PUT IT.
(laughing) THAT'S WHAT IT CAME RIGHT DOWN TO.
AND GARY CAME AFTER, ALONG WITH DAVE MONTGOMERY,
WHO WAS A GREAT WRITER OF...
PROSE POEMS AND SHORT SKETCHES THAT, UM--
UNFORTUNATELY, HE ISN'T WITH US ANYMORE.
BUT THERE WERE THE FOUR OF US.
WE FELT LIKE THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, IN SOME WAYS,
AND ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT, AS FAR AS THAT GOES.
AND A GREAT ANTHOLOGY OF OUR WORK FROM PAST AND PRESENT.
AND ONE THING I WOULD LIKE TO DO BEFORE I INTRODUCE BARB.
THIS THING IS ON YOUR... THING HERE.
I HAVE TO HAVE THESE FILLED OUT SO THAT WE CAN GET--
THIS IS FOR THE MICHIGAN COUNCIL OF ARTS AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS.
THEY NEED A TAKE ON WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT OF THE PRESENTATIONS
AND THE REST OF THAT,
AND I NEED A TAKE ON HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE HERE.
THIS IS PART OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE GRANT.
AND SO, THE BOTTOM LINE HERE IS IT'S NOT SO MUCH WHETHER PEOPLE
LIKE WHAT THEY HEAR OR NOT LIKE WHAT THEY HEAR,
BUT THAT WE DID THE REPORTING.
THAT'S YOUR BOTTOM LINE AS FAR AS THAT GOES.
AND IT ALSO GIVES ME A TAKE ON THINGS.
THE BOTTOM LINE, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THIS, IS WHEN THESE ARE FILLED OUT,
WE'RE GONNA GET THE FINAL PORTION OF THE GRANT.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, I THINK IT SETS UP A PATTERN SO THAT AFTER I'M RETIRED,
IF SOMEBODY ELSE WANTS TO HAVE A SHOW LIKE THIS
DOWN THE ROAD HERE AT THE COLLEGE,
WE HAVE A TRACK RECORD OF BEING RESPONSIBLE.
I HOPE YOU'RE HEARING ME ON THIS ONE.
WE WANNA MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE USED THE MONEY
THAT THIS STATE HAS GRANTED US FOR THIS THING
IN A RESPONSIBLE AND THOUGHTFUL WAY,
SO IT'S IMPORTANT THAT THIS BE DONE.
AND I'VE GOT SOME LITTLE...
UM, SOMEWHERE AROUND HERE-- OF PENCILS, IF YOU NEED THEM.
WE'LL FILL THOSE OUT AFTERWARDS, IF YOU'LL PLEASE HELP ME ON THIS ONE.
BARBARA SAUNIER...
WHAT DO I SAY ABOUT BARB?
ONE OF MY DEAR FRIENDS FROM YEARS AND YEARS HERE AT THE COLLEGE.
I LIKE TO THINK OF HER AS "THE RAZOR,"
AND I KNOW SHE'S HEARD THAT MANY TIMES, AND LIKES TO...
(chuckling) DISPUTE THE FACT.
BARB IS ONE WHO HAS THE MOST SHARP MINDS OF ANYONE I'VE EVER MET.
THAT'S THE SIMPLEST WAY I WOULD PUT IT.
SHE'S TOUGH AND SHE'S ONE THAT DOES NOT MINCE HER WORDS.
BEYOND THAT BUSINESS, UM, A POET THAT I HAVE WATCHED--
SOMETIMES, SHE'S HIDDEN HER WORK, I THINK.
OR MAYBE NOT-- MAYBE SHE JUST HASN'T SHARED IT WITH EVERYBODY.
BUT, UM...
ONE THAT I HAVE GREAT FONDNESS FOR,
BOTH HER WRITING AND HER PERSONAL QUALITIES.
GO AHEAD, BARB.
(applause)
>> OH, THERE MAY HAVE BEEN A TIME
WHEN MY MIND WAS ANYWHERE NEAR THAT SHARP,
BUT...
(audience laughing)
"DEAD WEIGHT" NEVER MEANS MORE THAN WHEN THE LEGS SNAP.
A WINCH AND CHAIN DRAG THE BODY OF THE GELDING
ONTO THE RENDERER'S TRUCK WHERE THE FULCRUM BULK OF CATTLE
AND MAYBE ANOTHER HORSE OR TWO
ARE MORE THAN HIS FLIGHTLESS BONES CAN SCALE.
THE SNAP STOPS THE LAST HARMONIC MOTION
IN THOSE SPRUNG LEGS, AND GRAVITY
TAKES IT LAST TUG.
WHATEVER HIS TRIUMPHS WERE, OR NONE,
HE LEAVES IN A RANK CORTEGE OF FLIES,
RECKONED LESS THAN THE PRICE OF MEAT.
IN THE CRUCIBLE OF THE RENDERING PLANT,
RESURRECTION STEWS.
THE FAT BOILS OUT
LIKE THE STONE AT THE CAVE DOOR ROLLING AWAY.
"EVERYTHING BUT THE NICKER," THEY SAY,
COOKS DOWN TO FERTILIZER, FOOD FOR DOGS,
TILL WHAT REMAINS IS THAT INFAMOUS GLUE--
A RECIPE OLD AS HAIR.
IF WOOD SPEAKS IN THE TONGUES OF ANGELS,
IT'S THE GLUE THAT GIVES IT VOICE--
HIS EVERYTHING AND THE NICKER TOO.
FROM AUGUST SHADE COMES HIS MARRIAGE
WITH SPRUCE, MAPLE, EBONY--
CONSUMMATED IN THE SEAMS OF A VIOLIN, A DOUBLE BASS.
FROM THE WISDOM OF ROSIN, HIS OWN TAIL FINDS ITS RHYTHM AND SWING
WITH THE BOW, ITS CURVE AND RECURVE IN THE F-HOLES OF THE SOUNDBOARD.
HE FLEXES HIS POLL IN THE SCROLL AND PEGS FOR HIS LOVE OF TREES.
IN THE GENIUS OF GLUE HE TREADS THE MEADOWS AND PLAINS AGAIN--
HE FILLS HIS LUNGS WITH THE HARMONICS OF WOOD.
THE TROUT LOOKS UP AND RISES FOR THE FLY-- THE LARK ASCENDS.
AND UNDER THE MUSICIAN'S HAND
HIS HOOFFALLS IN SPICCATO AMPLIFY HIM,
AMPLIFY HIM!
THERE WAS A TIME EARLY IN MY CAREER WHEN WE HAD TWO TELEPHONES
IN THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. (audience laughing)
ONE WAS IN THE OFFICE FOR THE SECRETARY AND ONE WAS IN THE LOUNGE.
AND WE ALSO-- BLESS HER HEART--
HAD A DEAR ELDERLY LADY TEACHING HERE
WHO HAD A PENCHANT FOR PERFUME.
AND IF YOU OCCASION TO USE THE TELEPHONE AFTER SHE HAD USED THE TELEPHONE,
YOU WENT AROUND WITH HER AROMA ON YOU ALL DAY LONG.
AND I WAS REMINDED OF THAT ONE DAY,
WATCHING STUDENTS IN THE HALL--
MUCH MORE RECENTLY-- WITH THEIR CELL PHONES.
DOZENS OF THEM LINED UP ON THE FLOOR ON THE HALLWAY...
NOT ONE OF THEM TALKING TO EACH OTHER,
BUT EVERYBODY TALKING
ON A PHONE THAT THEY DIDN'T SHARE WITH ANYBODY.
AND I THOUGHT...
"WELL, THERE IS A PASSAGE OF SOMETHING NOSTALGIC."
SOME OF YOU WON'T EVEN REMEM-- WON'T RECOGNIZE THE TECHNOLOGY HERE,
BUT THE OTHERS OF US WILL HAVE A LITTLE MOMENT OF NOSTALGIA.
"PHONE BOOTH."
IN PLACE OF LOVERS' FOLDED PENCILED NOTES
STOWED WHERE BIRCH TRUNKS CONVERGED,
OUR FINGERS PRESSED COINS INTO THE SHALLOW MOUTH
OF THE DIME SLOT, SPIKING THE DIAL TONE--
AN INVITATION ANSWERED IN THAT SMALL PRECINCT
BY THE FLUTTER OF THE FICKLE DIAL MAKING ITS ROUNDS.
CLANS OF HANDS AND AT LEAST AS MANY LIPS
RECALLED THOSE ROUNDS HERE,
SMUDGING YEARS OF COUGHS AND STAGNANT SMOKE
THAT FILTERED DOWN TO SOLIDS UNDERFOOT.
GRIT FROM SHOES MINGLED WITH GUM WRAPPERS AND PILLS CULLED FROM SWEATERS.
VAPOR FROM HOT TIPS, HOT DATES, HOT BREAKING NEWS
COOLED AND FADED ADDRESS NUMBERS AMID THE GROCERY ORDERS,
TICKET STUBS, CURDS PARED FROM UNDER OUR NAILS,
AND THE SHRIVELED MEMBRANES OF OUR LIES.
THESE TOKENS AND LOVES' CARVED HEARTS
RECALLED US-- THE FARELESS-TARDY-EARNEST-TIMID-LOST,
ALL JOINED OUR LIPS AND HANDS HERE.
AND SOMETIMES ON THE HANDSET SOMEONE'S HANDWARMTH MULLED,
A RENDEZVOUS JUST MISSED.
AND MORE, AGAINST AN EAR, ALONG THE JAW,
SOMETIMES THE SCENT OF SOME UNMET LOVER NUZZLED,
SOMETIMES ALL DAY.
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF SEX...
I RIPPED OFF THIS IDEA FROM A STUDENT.
I'M NOT PROUD OF IT, BUT IT WAS TOO GOOD AN IDEA TO LET GO.
(audience chuckling)
D.P., IF YOU'RE OUT THERE, I CREDIT YOU.
I WON'T BETRAY WHO YOU ARE,
IN CASE THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW.
BUT YOU REMEMBER PRACTICING KISSING, RIGHT?
"THE KISSING POST."
AFTER THE SCHOOL BUS FLASHES HER RED TO THE CURB,
HER MOTHER'S LIST TELLS HER START SUPPER, RUN A LOAD OF LAUNDRY.
UPSTAIRS WATER HEATS FOR POTATOES,
WHILE IN THE BASEMENT FLANNELS AND TWILLS COLLAPSE
INTO PILES OF COTTON AND PERMANENT PRESS.
SHE IS ALREADY FIFTEEN.
IF BASKETBALL AND BABY SITTING SCUFF THE POLISH OFF HER BITTEN NAILS,
THOUGHTS OF HER POSTER BOY
HUSK HER-- HE OF THE COCKED SHOULDER AND THE FIXED GAZE,
WHO SPEAKS HER NAME DURING STUDY HALL SO ONLY SHE HEARS.
AS THE WASHTUB FILLS, A LOAD-BEARING POST BECKONS FROM THE DANCE FLOOR.
WHAT IT LACKS OF HER BED PILLOW'S "YOU BABY,"
IT STIRS WITH THE "HELLO THERE" OF HEIGHT AND SOMETHING
PELVIC.
HER CHAMBRAY EYES CLOSE.
WHILE THE CLOTHES TAKE ON WATER, ONE HAND TRACES
THE DIMPLED KNOT AT THE NAPE OF THE CLOTHESLINE
AND THE FINGERS OF HER OTHER HAND TEASE THE PULL CHAIN OF THE BARE LIGHT BULB,
TUGGING SOME PRIVACY ON.
SHIRTS AND SLACKS TANGLE IN A FIGMENT OF BREASTS AND THIGHS.
THE LIFT OF HER CHIN BEGUILES HER "YEAH, YEAH"
TO THE EXPLORATION OF HIP, THE POST'S
INGRAINED MEMORY OF "LOOKIN' GOOD."
HOW THE AGITATOR IN THE WASHTUB CHAFES THOSE SEAMS
WHEN HER SUITOR LEANS TO SCOOP HER CLOSE,
AND STEAM FROM THE BOIL UPSTAIRS RATTLES THE POT LID.
THEIR BREATH RISES, AND LIPS PART BARELY.
HER FINGERNAILS GROW TAPERED AND LONG.
WE TALKED A LITTLE BIT TODAY IN THE PANEL THAT I SERVED ON
ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF OUR WORK.
THIS IS A POEM THAT, IN A LOT OF WAYS, IS JUST CONTRIVED.
I HEARD THE TITLE ON N.P.R.-- YOU MAY HAVE HEARD IT--
"THE FEAR OF SLEEP," AND I DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO HEAR THE EPISODE--
I SUPPOSE IT WAS "THIS AMERICAN LIFE,"
WHERE THEY TALKED ABOUT THE FEAR OF SLEEP, BUT I THOUGHT,
"THAT IS A TITLE THAT NEEDS SOME ATTENTION."
AND THE POEM--
THE LINES JUST ACCUMULATED AS I PAGED THROUGH A CATALOG.
"THE FEAR OF SLEEP."
IT'S THE SLOUGH OF SKIN THAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE--
ALL THAT ACCUMULATES AND THE COBWEBS THAT FORM IN THE CORNERS
WHEN YOU'RE NOT LOOKING.
SALIVA POOLS IN YOUR THROAT WITHOUT THE TRIGGER OF FOOD
LOSING ITS WAY AND WANTING TO START OVER.
IN YOUR GUT, FAUNA PROLIFERATE.
HAIR AND FINGERNAILS SPLIT AND FADE.
IF IT WERE ONLY THE CONSEQUENCE OF NOT HEARING THE ALARM
OR OF LETTING THE COFFEE MAKER BAKE DRY, ANY JURY OF AUSTERE CATS
MIGHT ACQUIT YOU OF FALLING ASLEEP.
THE PRIEST HEARING SUCH CONFESSION
MIGHT ASSIGN YOU 15,800 RESPIRATIONS A DAY INSTEAD OF THE USUAL PENANCE
COUNTING SHEEP.
BUT CORAL CAN'T HELP VEINING VESSELS IMMERSED IN REST, NOR CAN RUST
RESIST TO CLAIM THREADS AND JOINTS FALLEN STILL.
SANDBAGS LEVEE AGAINST SOMNOLENCE,
STEMMING THE ENCROACHMENT OF VINE INTO LATTICE, OF FEAR
INTO VITALS.
NO SLURRY OF VOLCANIC ASH WILL OVERTAKE YOUR THIGHS.
EVERY NIGHT THE MOON RETREATS FROM YOUR BED
FOUR ONE-THOUSANDTHS OF AN INCH-- IF YOU FALL ASLEEP, WHAT'S TO CHECK
THE RETURN OF TAIL AND GILLS?
WHAT'S TO KEEP GRAVITY FROM SWAPPING TEMPERAMENTS WITH FIRE?
"ROADKILL."
BLOATED RACCOONS GRIMACE WHERE THEIR WITS MARTYRED THEM,
AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WHERE THEIR GRIP
ON THE TREE OF LIFE RELAXED MID-SHINNY.
AROUND THE SHOULDERS OF A WEEDY CROSS, A SUN-BLEACHED PLASTIC WREATH
LIKE THE SLUNG ARM OF A DRUNK--
A NAME IN PAINT SLURRED BY WEATHER
AND WINTER'S ROAD SALT--
WHERE THE ROAD Ts, A CAR TURNS NEITHER LEFT NOR RIGHT, BUT
BUMPERS-OVER-THE-GRILLE INTO THE DITCH.
AT THE INTERSECTION WHERE A STOP SIGN SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRIEST ENOUGH--
ALONG THE STRETCH OF HIGHWAY WHERE SOME DRIVER EXPECTS
NOT ONE REVELATION--
IS THIS GUIDEPOST WHERE SHADES OF THE DEAD COME
SEEKING THE COMFORTS OF A WORN TEDDY BEAR OR
SNAPSHOTS LIKE VISIONS OF SAINTS AND VIRGINS IN ZIP-LOCK BAGS?
IS THIS SCAFFOLD WHERE THEY PAWN THE TENNIS RACKET AND THE AMERICAN FLAGS
SO THEY CAN RETURN ONE DAY TO CLAIM THEIR FADED EFFECTS?
ON THE VERGE, THE SIX TEATS OF A POSSUM BALLOON FROM HER MARSUPIAL POUCH,
HER YOUNG THE SIZE OF PEANUTS
RIDING NIPPLES AND ROT GAS UP, CRISP WITNESS
TO THE STEEL-BELTED RUMBLE OF LONG-DISTANCE HAULERS
AND GARBAGE TRUCKS.
WHO BOTHERS TO MAKE PILGRIMAGE TO THESE SHRINES?
DOE WHOSE FAWN
STRADDLES THE DOUBLE-YELLOW LINE TO STEEP IN MIRACULOUS CURES?
SQUIRREL, WHO, FROM HIS OWN SKIDMARK,
RAISES THE LIT CANDLE OF HIS TAIL?
GOLDFINCH, WHO LEAVES THE YELLOW FEATHER THAT SAYS,
"I, TOO, WAS HERE."
I'M NOT IMMUNE
TO THE TEMPTATION OF HAVING DOMINION OVER THE CREATURES.
I DON'T LIKE THAT, BUT I'M NOT IMMUNE...
AND HERE'S A POSSUM THAT CALLED ME ON IT.
"POSSUM."
AGAINST THE FAR WALL OF THE SHED, THIS SKULK-FOOTED LURKER RECOILS
BEHIND PALLETS, ANGLING FOR CORNERS I THINK ARE MINE.
IN MY VITALS DIGESTION STOPS.
WITH THREE .22 SLUGS KEEN FOR THEIR MARK, I KNEEL,
ONE QUIET FINGER STAKING MY CLAIM TO ALL I THINK I OWN.
BUT WHEN THE GUN'S MOVING PARTS BALK, BELIEF BACKFIRES.
MY CLAIM TURNS TO LEAD FOR WANT OF A SHOT, AND I RETREAT
THROUGH THE HOLE IN THE WALL BY WHICH I CAME.
KIM MENTIONED IN HER POEM
THE ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCES THAT PRODUCED HUSKS--
THE FORECLOSURES, THE LOST JOBS, ALL THAT...
THIS IS MY FORECLOSURE POEM.
THERE ARE EIGHT PARTS.
IT'S ALMOST ENTIRELY TRUE.
THERE'S ONLY TWO OR THREE LINES OF FABRICATION IN IT,
AND THEY'RE DARN CLOSE ENOUGH.
"FORECLOSURE," ONE.
THE SUN STUDIES THE FAR WALL FROM THE KITCHEN WINDOW.
ALL-- (coughing) ALREADY HE HAS FORGOTTEN
THE BLOCKY REAL ESTATE OF THE REFRIGERATOR FOR THE COPPER TUBING THAT REMAINS,
THE ELECTRICAL OUTLET WITH ITS RAG OF COBWEB
BUT NO PLUG, NO HUM.
HE BRUSHES PAST
WHERE THE CAT SAVED UP KIBBLE AND OTHER BOUNTY
UNDER THE ABSENT STOVE-- TWO KEYS,
ONE BOOK OF STAMPS, THE CHECKBOOK REGISTER,
A HEARING AID, AND FOUR UNOPENED CLIPS OF CANDY PEZ--
ALL NOW ALIGHT IN THE EMPTY ROOM, AS THOUGH, IN PASSING,
HIS HIP HAS DIALED UP THE FLAME.
TWO.
MAKE OFFER-- BASKETS, JIG-SAW PUZZLES AND BOARD GAMES,
PLACE-MATS, TABLE CLOTH WITH MATCHING NAPKINS.
TWO POTTED PHILODENDRON, BASKETS,
CLOTHES HANGERS BUNDLED WITH MASKING TAPE, CHILDREN'S BOOKS
FROM DUCKLINGS TO DINOSAURS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC,
READER'S DIGEST, BUBBLE WRAP, BASKETS.
PLASTIC SHOVEL AND PAIL.
PEDAL CAR.
TEA POT SHAPED LIKE ENGLISH COTTAGE.
TEA POT SHAPED LIKE PINEAPPLE.
BASKETS.
FREE.
THREE.
SCREWED TO THE DOOR FRAME A CLIPBOARD THE SIZE OF A POST CARD
WHERE DROP-INS LEFT NOTES-- "SORRY WE MISSED YOU--
"WE OWE YOU LUNCH!
"WILL STOP BACK LATER. D & S."
THE PENCIL HANGS FROM A KNOTTED STRING, LEAD BROKEN,
ITS ERASER DRY AS A NUT.
FOUR.
ON THE OPEN PORCH, AN INDIFFERENT BREEZE
NUDGES THE SLATTED SWING ON ITS WAY THROUGH.
MATCHING BLUE SHUTTERS AND WINDOW BOXES
HANG ON WHILE THEY CAN, BUT THE SWING-- AHH.
HOOFCLOPS FROM AN AMISH BUGGY PASSING
RAP AGAINST CLAPBOARD, THEIR KNOCK UNANSWERED
BY A TERRY CLOTH ROBE AND SUNDAY MORNING PAPER,
A CIGARETTE AT DUSK.
FIVE.
JOSTLED INTO A CARDBOARD BOX,
IRIS DUG FROM ALONG THE WALK AS SOME KIND OF REMEDY
CANNOT FIND THEIR LIST OF THINGS TO DO.
FIRST THE ROOT, AND THEN THE RAIN.
STILL IN THE BOX AT THE CORNER OF THE GARAGE,
THEY GIVE UP TRYING TO BECOME AN EASTER HAT.
SIX.
THE BAD NEWS-- LIMBFALL FROM OLD MAPLES
SPINDLES SOD WITH A SHRUG AFTER THE GOOD FIGHT.
THE GOOD NEWS-- LIMBFALL WELCOMES SUN TO GRASS.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING, MAYBE-- GRASS CLAIMS THE COLLATERAL IN
WOOD'S EXPOSED GRAIN.
GRASS CLAIMS CRACKS IN ASPHALT, CLAIMS RASPBERRY CANES,
CLAIMS COMPOST PILE, FIRE PIT, ADIRONDACK CHAIR--
GRASS CLAIMS LAWN, AND GOES TO SEED.
SEVEN.
THE NEIGHBOR'S DRIVE SEEMS TWICE AS LONG WITH NOWHERE TO CARRY GOSSIP
FROM THE POST OFFICE.
OVERDUE NEWS BACKS UP AND COOLS.
FIX-IT HANDS FIND THEIR PLACE REPOSSESSED.
EIGHT.
THE SUN CURLS INTO THE CORNER BY THE BACK DOOR
LIKE THE DOG THEY TRIED TO GIVE AWAY
WHO WOULD NOT DUN THEM FOR WHAT IT COST HER
NAVIGATING THE ROAD'S SHOULDER BACK TO THIS STOOP.
AND IF NO ONE LETS HER IN TODAY, PERHAPS TOMORROW.
OR THE DAY AFTER.
(inhaling) WE NEED SOMETHING A LITTLE LIGHTER.
THIS IS A PERFORMANCE PIECE.
I NEED TO STEEL MYSELF.
(in Irish accent) "WASHDAY IN THE LANES, LIMERICK, 1938."
CLOTHES DRY.
ESPECIALLY WHEN THE DAY IS FINE, WHO CAN STOP CLOTHES DRYING?
AND THANKS BE TO JAYSUS FOR THAT, TOO, SO SHE WOULD SAY.
OVER THE HEAT OF A GOOD TURF FIRE, CLOTHES GO INTO THE WASHTUB DIRTY
WITH THE SWEAT AND THE GRIME OF THE MILL AND THE DOCKS,
AND SURE IF THEY DON'T COME OUT --IF NOT CLEAN, AT LEAST WET--
WHICH IS MORE THAN THEY WERE WHEN THEY WENT IN.
AND ISN'T THAT A MIRACLE, SHE WINKS-- PRAISE BE.
YET DON'T THEY COME OUT CLEAN AS WELL, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT.
AND EACH WASHDAY THE RAIN ABATES,
IT'S ALMOST WORTH THE LYE AND THE WASHBOARD
TO CAST AWAY THE KINKS FROM HER BACK IN RAISING UP HER ARMS TO THE CLOTHESLINES
ZIGGING AND ZAGGING OVER THE BACK COURTYARD,
PEGGING ON THE APRONS AND THE TOWELS LIKE WASH-WORN NOTES TO A STAVE
AND WATCHING THEM TAKE FLIGHT LIKE KITES, LIKE PRAYERS.
EVERY ZEPHYR THE GOOD LORD SENDS LAUNDRY
RUFFLES STOCKING AND JUMPER ALIKE, WHICH IN THEIR TURN
SIFT THE COAL SMUT FROM THE AIR AND BRIGHTEN THE SUN
ON THE OTHER SIDE.
AND IF CLOTHES FADE, SURE
IT'S ONLY AS THE COLORS TAKE THEIR PLACE IN THE GREATER GOINGS-ON,
TAKEN UP, WOULDN'T SHE SAY, LIKE THE SOULS OF THOSE
SHE LIGHTS CANDLES FOR.
AND WITH THE SUN'S GOOD TIDINGS WASHING DOWN
UPON HER OWN FACE AS ON THE BEST OF THEM,
IT'S NEIGHBORS WORSE OFF THAN HERSELF SHE THINKS OF--
MRS. MURDOCH WITH NOT A TOOTH TO TEAR HER BREAD,
AND YOUNG GINNIE DOYLE WITHOUT AN ONION TO FLAVOR THE BROTH.
AND OVER THE WAY, THERE'S THEM AS HAS NO COURTYARD
FOR DRYING THE NIGHTSHIRTS AND THE BLOOMERS,
BUT ONLY AN ALLEY, AND A POLE TWO FLOORS ABOVE
THEIR SCURVY LANE.
SO IT'S TEA SHE WOULD OFFER WHEN SHE HAS A MINUTE--
WHEN GINNIE DOYLE READS FOR HER THE LETTERS THAT COME,
AND MRS. O'CULLEN THERE SUCKLING ANY WOMAN'S BABE
AS NEEDS THE FAVOR.
AND LISTENING AS THEY DO
TO MRS. MURDOCH'S RADIO PROPPED ON THE SILL JUST SO
FOR ONE AND ALL.
IT'S TEA SHE WOULD OFFER
AND A BIT OF CONSIDERATION FOR THEIR EFFORTS--
AS WELL AN ACT OF CONTRITION FOR TAKING HER PLEASURES
IN MATTERS OF THIS LIFE.
SO FOR ALL THE WAGES THAT HIMSELF DROPS AT THAT MURKY PUB
ON HIS WAY BETWEEN THE CEMENT WORKS AND HIS OWN HEARTH--
TILL SHE'S GLAD ENOUGH WHEN THE MEEK INHERIT
NO MORE THAN THE RENT-- FOR ALL SHE'S HERSELF
BUNION'D AND ARTHRITIC AND PEGGED
LIKE A HOUSEDRESS TO THE LINE IN THESE LANES BEHIND THE QUAY,
ISN'T IT PURELY A COMFORT TO HER TO KNOW THERE'S A THING
SHE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO AND THAT IS THIS, THANKS BE--
CLOTHES DRY.
(audience chuckling)
I DON'T OWN A DRYER.
I'VE NEVER OWNED A DRYER.
I JUST USE THE LINE.
THIS TIME OF YEAR, I'VE GOT CLOTHES HANGING IN A RACK IN THE LIVING ROOM.
SO, IF I KNOW YOU'RE COMING, I'LL TAKE THE UNDERWEAR OFF.
(audience laughing)
I DON'T HAVE BABIES,
BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE I KNOW DO
AND THEY SEEM PRETTY TAKEN WITH THE WHOLE BUSINESS.
(audience laughing)
THERE'S A RITUAL, APPARENTLY, THAT YOU ALL GO THROUGH VERY EARLY ON...
AND MY COUSIN DID THE SAME WITH HER SON, BUT SHE MISSED A COUPLE OF DETAILS.
THIS IS FOR MY COUSIN PHYLLIS.
I'VE GOT TO GET RID OF THE IRISH...
IRISH THING IS STILL IN MY TONGUE.
"MY BOY WITH LEGS."
I DON'T THINK TO COUNT HIS LEGS IN THAT FIRST UNSWADDLED TALLY--
WHEN FINGERS AND TOES TIE TEN TO TEN,
AND THE DELICATE SCROLLS OF EACH EAR OF TWO
SHAPE MY HAND WITH A MOTHER'S THANKSGIVING.
AS HE TODDLES FROM DIAPERS INTO PIANO LESSONS AND LITTLE LEAGUE,
HIS STEPS MULTIPLY PAST NOTATION, FILLING
THE STAVES OF MY LIFE WITH MELODY,
WITH CHORDS.
HIS HITS, HIS ERRORS, HIS RUNS BATTED IN I'M SURE
I KNOW BY HEART-- ALL OF HIS BEATS PER MEASURE.
I'VE RECKONED HIS BIRTHDAYS ON BOTH HANDS BY THE TIME NEWS SEARS THE NEIGHBORHOOD--
ANOTHER WOMAN'S' BOY CROSSES THE TRACKS IN A CRESCENDO OF RED FLASHING LIGHTS--
TURNING COUNTER TO PLAN, ONE BICYCLE WHEEL LOSES ITS BASS LINE, LOSES ITS BOY
HIS ROMP FOR HOME, HIS COUNT OF LEGS.
IMAGINATION IS A CLOT IN THE PULSE OF MY INFIELD,
THE CODA THAT STOPS MOVEMENT LIKE A CRAMP.
BUT EVEN IN ARREST MY HEART
TAKES INVENTORY AND POSTS THE REVISED SCORE.
BLURRED FRECKLES IN THE SAND LOT LIKE PHRASED QUARTER NOTES
MAKE OF MY HEART A CORNET.
MY BOY STEALS THIRD ON HIS TWO LEGS,
AND REVEILLE SOUNDS ANOTHER DAY OF GRATITUDE.
THAT'S MY BOY THERE, ON A WONDER OF LEGS--
TWO LEGS, AND COUNTING.
THIS IS THE POEM THAT MADE ME MONEY. (audience laughing)
WE'VE GOTTEN USED TO THINKING OF MONET AND VAN GOGH--
OR "VAN GOKGHHH," AS MY COUSIN SAYS.
RENOIR, DEGAS, EVERY-- YOU KNOW, WE'RE ALL--
YOU NEED THE MONEY FROM A SMALL COUNTRY TO BUY ANY ONE OF 'EM ANYMORE,
BUT IT WASN'T ALWAYS THE CASE.
AND IN THE IMPRESSIONIST EXHIBITION OF 1881,
GAUGUIN HAD A PIECE THAT THE PUBLIC AND THE CRITICS SCORNED.
IT WAS A NUDE THAT DID NOT REVEAL THE CLASSIC BEAUTY
THAT PEOPLE WANTED IN THEIR NUDES.
BUT THIS IS FOR ANY OF US WOMEN HERE WHO NO LONGER HAVE THE PROFILE
WE ONCE MIGHT HAVE HAD.
"MY BODY, THIS AGING CHEESE." (audience laughing)
A "PERSONA" POEM, AS KIM TAUGHT YOU ABOUT.
MY BODY, THIS AGING CHEESE, AFFRONTS THEM LIKE A MOLD, AS THOUGH
BENEATH MY BURRED RIND I WERE NOT STILL SOME OTHER WOMAN'S
CREAM-SKINNED DAUGHTER, TENDING TO HER TORN PETTICOAT.
THIS CURDLED LAP, THESE CLOTTED BREASTS SLOUGH
THEIR TUTS AND RANCID GLANCES.
IF OUR INTENT HAD BEEN A POSE, I'D HAVE
SAT THIS UNMADE BED LIKE A THRONE.
INSTEAD, I RIPEN AND MEND.
AND IF THEY MISS THE GRACE EVEN I CAN SEE
OF THIMBLE NEEDLING THREAD FROM ONE STITCH TO THE NEXT, THEY MISS, TOO,
THAT FLAVOR'S IN THE FAT, AND THAT, IN FULL TIME, LIKE SIN
GENERATIONS REMOVED FROM THE ORIGINAL,
THEY WILL LICK ME ALL OVER FOR THE SALT.
THANK YOU.
(applause)
>> OKAY, SO IF YOU COULD FILL OUT THOSE FORMS, AND, UH...
ESPECIALLY YOU STUDENTS.
I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS A STUDENT.
WHEN YOU SEE ALL KINDS OF FREE FOOD UP THERE, GRAB IT!
(audience laughing)
WHEN I WAS AT MICHIGAN AS AN UNDERGRAD, BASICALLY,
WE WOULD GO TO THESE THINGS,
AND I THINK HALF OF IT WAS TO GO TO SEE THE POEMS OR WHATEVER PEOPLE WERE DOING,
AND THE OTHER HALF WAS TO FILL YOUR POCKETS
WITH AS MUCH FOOD AS POSSIBLE.
I'M NOT SAYING, "DO THAT," BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE IT IS!
OTHER THAN THAT, IF YOU CAN BRING THE ONES THAT YOU HAVE UP HERE,
OR MAYBE I'LL PUT A CHAIR OUT...