I had to turn back after driving halfway there. Forgot my god damned reading papers. How is one to read aloud without his papers? Shit! I drove back doing fifteen miles over the speed limit, only slowing down to legal speed whenever my authority-radar began going off. I’d be doing 70 in a 55, get a sudden pig-whiff, then slow down to 55, and sure enough, just over the hill, a police cruiser would be sitting behind a billboard sign by the side of the highway. After I passed him a half mile, I’d pick up speed again.
I arrived home, ran inside, grabbed the papers, hopped back in the car and sped like the dickens again all the way to Amery Ale Works. The readings began at 7:00PM and I wanted to be on time. The Works is a three level barn fleshed out and made into a hell of a nice bar-restaurant. It was here that I’d be reading some of my poems to an audience for my first time. I felt simultaneously nervous and excited.
I met my good friend, Benjamin Eastman, in the gravel parking lot outside of the Works. There wasn’t a single vacant parking spot, so Ben and I sort of made up our own. Ben is skinny, very polite and kind, and a great conversationalist. We greeted each other warmly and made our way inside.
We found the Works to be pretty appealing. The Works is located off a county road, way back in the boonies. An eighty foot grain silo stands like a beacon to earnestness and hard work beside the renovated barn. It’s long been emptied and great, intricate vines has covered its surface.
We took the little path passing the silo and the people lounging on the patio and made our way to the bar on the basement level. I ordered a Black Oak Chardonnay and so did Benjamin. We took our glasses and marched on. We found our way upstairs, the main level with a bar, the poets, and Josie Coen’s macro-photograph gallery.
The photographs were very pretty and interesting and we appreciated them. I began telling Ben about a photograph Josie had taken. “It’s called the beer smear,” I said. “Someone had set a pint of beer on the table. The condensation from the beer left a ring and when the person picked up the beer, it left a smear. So Josie took a photo of it and called it, ‘Beer Smear’”.
That’s when I saw Josie mingling with the crowd. I congratulated her on the success of her first showcase. She had her hair all done up pretty, wore a fetching black dress and was of gregarious mood.
We made our way to the top level. Dan Osbourne’s painting gallery is up there. Dan has a strongly impressionistic style, painting subjects which range from wild, wind-blown trees to pretty women with unforgettable smiles. Ben and I got to talking about painting, art style, and then about jazz and how we wished this art event would have some Coltrane or Miles playing in the background. It would be perfect, we both agreed.
We went on and on and on because that’s what Benjamin and I are good at: talking about everything from existentialist philosophy to art, jazz, to homemade cabinets. You never know what will subject could come up next. We’d talk about life for an eternity if people would only allow it.
Hearing an applause, we ran back downstairs to the bar. I bought a tall glass of Stout. So did Ben.
Stephanie, poet and host for the poetry reading, went up to the lonely microphone set in front the crowd. She introduced herself and called out to Tom and asked if he want to read first. Tom was sitting at the bar, going through his reading papers.
“Tom?” said Tom. “Which Tom? I thought you said I could go last? I’m not ready!”
“That’s fine! How about you, Tylor? Would like you come up here and break the ice?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said. “Just after I get one more beer!”
The crowd giggled a bit. “Okay! Tylor Mintz will be our first poet to read tonight, right after he gets his beer.”
I got my beer and went up there. I sat on the stool, nervously adjusting the microphone. Josie’s teenage son sat about six feet way operating a camera, recording the event for posterity.
“Well, I’ve brought a lot of subversive material tonight.” I said.
The crowd chuckled because they thought I was only kidding.
“But I think we’ll just start out with something light,” I said.
I went on to declare a war on the United States of America.
People applauded at its end and I wasn’t thrown out. So I read another piece called, “The Crucified Cock”.
No, I wasn’t talking about a rooster in that piece. I could feel the crowd was slightly against me, but that was okay. I went on to read a love poem, one that rhymed and was slightly more of traditional flavor. A crowd pleaser, so I thought.
“Okay,” I said. “This is my last one.”
A stern man sitting in front clapped gratefully when I said that.
“I really appreciate you guys holding back the tomatoes,” I said.
“And for not shooting me.” I added.
I read my last poem, “A Loved Woman with Claws”, a piece about angry women and their peculiarly devastating effects upon the minds of sensitive men.
When I finished, the stern man softened and said, “That was sweet.”
Then I hopped off my stool to let the next poet take his or her fifteen minutes of spotlight. I stood off to the side with Benny and drank more beer. Roxanne got up there next and read a wonderful piece called, “Coming Out at 66”.
Roxanne has a great spirit and stylishly large eyeglasses with thick frames. She read to us poems about fairies, working off of a lovely double-entendre. She even wore a “fairy crown” during the first half of her reading. After Roxanne finished, a lady hopped up there and gave us her back story and read to us poems about her life and about the love of God’s grace and so forth and so on. Ben and I went over to the far corner and sat at a little table, chatting quietly while the lady read. We ordered two glasses of blueberry beer, which was delicious.
Stephanie (you may know her better by her pseudonym, Ameya), got up there next. She read to us clearly and confidently. Ben and I both agreed her poems were pretty intriguing.
I noticed Roxanne was taking leave, so I made sure to say goodbye. I told her about my awkward feelings while on stage and that a man had applauded when I said I’d be done reading.
“Yeah, well, he probably voted for Donald Trump and he’ll probably vote for him again. So you can’t take that to heart.”
She also informed me that I was special, and that it was only a matter of time before someone noticed that and I would be doing things on a national level. Roxanne is a very talented person with an extraordinarily kind soul.
I heard an introduction over the speakers, so I got my ass back inside. I didn’t want to miss what other people were doing.
Tom got up there as the night’s last reader, as was promised him. Tom struck us as a special human being. Tom is a farmer and a construction worker. If one were to look at him, one would never guess that this was a man whom wrote poems in his spare time. My favorite of his poems was about a raging river of life. When he finished his set I yelled out to him, “Rage on, Tom!” and of course meant it.
Ben and I agreed there ought to be more events like this for writers and artists, and we should work together on creating a gathering for writers and artists. After all, all art is local, and this is a war we small town creatives are waging – an art war. We are currently enlisting foot soldiers, generals, sergeants, etc. It is a slow, yet sure revolution.
“What’s that you’ve got there, Ben?” I asked. He had a large print in his hand. He turned over. It was Josie’s “Beer Smear”.
I drove home with my inner authority-radar on full alert, since it was Friday night and the cruisers would be out filling quotas. I sped very carefully all the way home. Then I talked sweetly to my girlfriend and we made love and went to sleep around midnight.
It all made for a damn nice day. After all, poetry, art, wine, and love are the spices of life.