‘Grahm Slam’ Poetry Session

[No Dialogue]
[Clapping]>>Male speaker: Welcome
to second annual Graham Lewis memorial
poetry for the reading of the last known
as Graham Slam, and the big round of
applause first for the man whose responsible for this
award, sitting right here in the back row next this Ms.
Murices, Joe Butler. And a round of applause for the
person who got all of this set up– and comfy and with food
and all of that business– Ms. Kate Murices. [Slight clap] And a round of
applause for our Ms. Jo. And last but not least,
a big round of applause for our nine finalists. [Slight clap] I’ll give
you a quick description of what’s going to happen. The nine finalist will come up
one at a time and they’ll each with have approximately five
minutes to read or perform whatever they’ll like to do. At the end of that, our judges
will tally up numbers that they placed in arbitrary categories
on a score sheets while you can help yourself
to refreshments on this table over here. Then we’ll come back together
and announce the order of the finalists one through nine,
and that will be the end of our show. So, without further ado, are you
Ready.>>Male Speaker:
All right, very good. First up, please welcome to the
stage, Marjorie Clemente.>>Marjorie Clemente:
My father is mystic. I don’t praise him, or belt
out hymns. Nor do I get on my knees and
beg. There’s no need for
me to tuck a rosary, or a cross beneath my pillow. Or walk with it in my pockets or
let it hang like a necklace over my car’s rear view mirror. I feel something… different. I feel a kind of [unclear
dialogue] goodness that
follows. Maybe an entity. I feel it with reminiscing of
times when things weren’t always messed up between
my and man and me. I can sit and talk to this
benign creature, and remember this evenings of my
father sitting in our basement listening to old reggae. He’d smoke a Cuban cigar and ask
me to crack open a few beers. My father was a tired man. He said he was tired of living
a mediocre life with us. His face once animated was now
replaced with a worn mask from hours of sleeplessness. The creases on his worn face had
indicated that the years had not been so subtle, and
unforgivingly desiccated his brown skin. Being able to watch
him just relax filled me with an unspeakable happiness. Whatever bothered him on the
inside would trickle away fear than having cigar smoke tickling
on his right. He kept his feet propped up
listening to “Solo,” looking like Papa Bear. And reggae was the
only music he truly loved that was in English. He had an ear for translating
Bob Marley’s lyrics and understanding the
cadence of his dialect. Those evenings were almost
ritualistic. When you kick back wearing Afros
and drink Caplan’s Melonhead. and we would crow and cry out
along with Marley’s draw. Meanwhile, he would keep time on
the scandalous congos. It was the closest that I could
ever get to my old man. Music, incence smoke. All something together in one
room. And I’m telling you, I don’t
need to clutch a crucifix or recite a piece of scripture to
know that there is God. And I don’t know what it looks
like, but it was there in that room where my old man taught
me to listen to each melody, melody to the next. Thank you. [Clapping]>>Male speaker:
All right, can everyone hear all right from this corner? All right great, without further
ado, next to the stage, Mr. Ivory Watts. [Audience clapping]>>Ivory Watts:
Actually, I have a couple of poems to read. “The Anonymous Boy” There’s a boy who wants to
fall, but he’s not sure if there is a bungee. He’s all about his business, a
search without morality. There’s a boy who only cries
hard, finds out he might be friendly. Does he show it off or leave
the park cause attachment isn’t simple? There’s a boy who gets high and
attempts to never get down. Things aren’t perfect but not as
good as they sound. There’s a boy who leans on
shoulders someone tilt it to the ground. Just trying to hide
his true feelings, when all the kids are around. There’s a boy who lost his opens
to a girl who couldn’t keep her legs closed. Is this boy nude? I mean yeah, I suppose. This poem is called, “Change.” What’s this shy young boy, now
tall, dark, and handsome man? Do with hickey; now pop bottles,
now I’m the one with the “K”. From the south side streets
to the sweet streets of Beverly Hills, I’m thankful
that my mom who removed me from streets of normal kill. It seems like yesterday I was on
a college campus stealing Reese’s, now I’m twenty-one,
with two nieces. As a teenager I envisioned
myself wearing a jersey. Lord who would have thought
my future would be on stage reading poetry. Two shoulder dislocations came
and brought me my passion. Dark road destined to show me my
passion. My flashlight placed on a clear
view path, changed the time almost to mile from here almost
each stand to see an aftermath. This poem’s called,
“In the Morning.” It’s 5:35, as I watch the
sunrise. I’m thinking of you, so I
thought I’ll give you a surprise, a piece of my mind,
which wanted to last a piece of my pride. So sweet to me, when someone
touches, you they die. I can’t complain or lie
sometimes I need clarity. Oh my gee, my feelings are
hitting behind my parody. It seems most people are worried
when we’re going to be together. I’m worried about the next time
we get to be together. At this stage in life, let’s be
directors not actors. Let’s focus on us, which is the
only relevant factor. Everything living is another
closer to dying. Therefore, we’re safe to set it
off, then die trying. “Until the Fat Lady Sings” As the rooster calls, the pain
is still there. Timothy struggles to find gas to
blow its engine up and mind. The pouring rain from the
evening showers makes everything blurry. There’s no sign of a rainbow at
the end. “This cave, this dungeon, this
black hole isn’t like home,” he says to himself. Then he remembers there’s no
place like home, clicking his heels together and
repeating every phrase with his eyes closed. Timothy hopes for a short cut
from his misery. But then suddenly feels body
awake, he opens his eyes and blinded by the light. But still, in the same book we
have to wait. But he’s not the same anymore. He is a dude name by hope. Faith had struck him like
lighting bolt. Timothy now believes that he can
be. He knows that it’s not over yet,
until the fat lady sings. And then, this is my last one. This poem is
called, “Unstoppable.” I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable because I am
the only force that can stop me. I am unstoppable because I am
prepared for the vision that only I can see. I am unstoppable because
I am undefeated against all obstacles. I am unstoppable because I
deleted the word impossible. I am a believer. I’m a believer because complete
optimism is my only choice. I am a believer because I have a
mouth and voice. I’m a believer because I
believe my mark on this world would be remarkable. I’m a believer and I’m
unstoppable. [Audience clapping]>>Male Voice:
All right, next up is Rin Brooks, then Graves.>>Rin Brooks:
This is ridiculously long, so first of all I would
like to apologize. I tried to cut as much as I can
out of it. This is called,
“The Survival of a Boy.” My adrenaline raged as blood
surged through my bulging veins. Prompting me to burst out of the
handcuffs that restrained me. I was an impatient and
angry 22-year-old situated uncomfortably in the back
of a police cruiser. I was being arrested for D.U.I. even though I was sober when my
tiny sports car slid off the rural road into a shallow
ditch. The psychotic wind penetrated to
the bone, it was a relief to be inside the car, silently
awaiting my faith. The pudgy Italian officer
that arrested me was around five foot 10 inches tall,
had black slick-backed hair, beady eyes, and a
trim mustache. “So, we have a report that you
were attempting a B.N.E. at this residence,” he said as
he pointed his chubby finger toward the old farmhouse
adjacent to where my car sat in the narrow ditch. “I never have and I never will I
understand people like you. You justify the second
amendment. I really wish the old woman had
a gun pointing straight to your fucking face when you broke in.” “Wow really, I was only going to
ask to use the phone,” I said. “I live about two miles away and
I started to walk but I realized that I didn’t have warm
enough clothes on. So, I decided that I needed to
call home for a ride. I didn’t try to break in. I walked into the breezeway and
knocked on the door a few times. No one answered so I grabbed my
half pint out of my trunk and started to walk home,” I
explained. “You mean to tell me that
even a lush like you doesn’t have a cell phone?” His brown eyes were empty and
the left side of his lip was raising in a contemptful sneer. “I do but it’s dead. It’s in my car, you can see for
yourself.” “Oh, you can bet on that,” he
says. He forcibly produced a manila
envelope from the glove box. This guy is just trying to get
under my skin to make me say something I’ll regret. Keep cool, Will, keep cool. “Well,” he said, sticking his
fat thumb in two or three documents that seal my
fate, the official police report, “I’m happy to report
that you’re officially being charged of B.N.E as well as
D.U.I., any questions?” He wore a penetrating smile
on his face, the likes of which gave me the feeling he would
love to produce his gun from his hoister, and pistol whip me in
the face. “No, take me to jail,”
I said with confidence and an aire of indifference. “With pleasure,” he
snarles and revs up the engine, shifted gears, and with a
heavy foot accelerated onto the precarious road. I was put into a small temporary
holding cell with one other person, a black man that
appeared to be about six foot, four inches tall, powerfully
built, with dreadlocks, and a kind face. He undoubtedly had on
what he was arrested in: a white tee shirt, blue jeans
and a pair of expensive looking– expensive
looking leather sandals. “What’s up blood, what you in
for?” “D.U.I. and bullshit– and
bullshit B.N.E charge, I’m Will by the way.” “Cyrus at your service man, my
girl called the cops on me because I came home late as fuck
stinking of booty and yak,” he said, as actually covered his
eyes with his right hand in supposed shame. “Anyhow, my woman told the cops
that I was beating on the door and shit, threating to break it
down and whoop her ass. The bitch didn’t even let
me in my own house, ain’t that some shit?” I was picturing a personal
scenario in my mind, lost my thoughts when I notice he had
extended his hand. “Damn man she sounds fierce,” I
said, trying to suppress my laugh as I reached out my
hand and grasped Cyrus’s hand in a firm traditional
handshake. “For sure, you right, ’cause
she grown, my warrior woman, I love my lady but damn
loony be taunting me. Looming over me all day
and night. I’m tried of this son.” “Aren’t we all?” I said, wishing
I had thought of something better to say. He simply nodded at this and
laid down on his steel bed covered only by half inch
think foam filled mat, the standard lay out. I suddenly realized how
exhausted I was and took Cyrus’s cue and sauntered over to my
own joy of a bed, and flopped down on my stomach, almost
immediately slipping into a deep sleep. I was awakened by strange sounds
I couldn’t quite make out with my delirious state. As I lazily opened my eyes I saw
Cyrus just a few feet away, sitting Indian style with his
hands rested on his thighs and melodiously humming a chant that
I couldn’t quite make out. As if to appease my curiosity,
he suddenly opened his eyes, “Rise and shine dog. This here is my early morning
routine, [unclear dialogue] but I’ll get to that. First I got some shit that I
need to share with you, Will,” he said tossing up a generic
honeybun, compliments to the fine chefs of Cameleon County. I caught the snack and suddenly
realized how hungry I was. “Good looking out man.” “Go ahead I’m listening,” I said
feeling irritated that I was still in jail and didn’t dream
last night’s experience. “Well a couple years ago,
someone emailed some dirty looks here to the D.S.E. My cousin was up in here around
that time for blowing blunt smoke into a cops face. The chief then thought that
some shady shit was going down there at first. They asked all the inmates
that they have booked since, and they all said no. My cousin, name Calverall,
by the way, became obsessed with finding out why it was. The chief had to go through each
book cover to cover looking for guns, drugs, or other
paraphernalia, deciding to add literature to
our small ass library that mostly got books
that became movies. That’s the background. Check this out; when Ken
got out he was changed, Will, changed. This was the dude that I ran
with since birth. We straightened knuckleheads,
robbing tourist, and any motherfucker
that looked weak to us. We always felt untouchable
like [unclear dialogue], but right now Ken’s a philosophy
major in Chi-town, a sophomore that’s been making straight
A’s since he got there.” Intrigued, I sat, allowing
Cyrus’s words to paint an elaborate and vivid pictures
in my mind. I pondered the power of
literature and how it can inpart enough wisdom to free the
minds of those who are stuck in horrible circumstances. “Let me guess, the meditation is
inspired from a book from an annonymous donation?” “You sharp as a tack, Will. This is from the pawnshop, which is the root of
Hinduism basically. I read most of the Bible
and parts of the Quran, but nothing reached me like
the ancient Indian sages that roam for years.” “Will,” he said, wide-eyed and
pacing, “can you imagine being in complete control
over yourself? So focused that you
realize that there is no “you”? You’re just an essence so vast
that is a part of everything that exists. I want that more than anything. After only a week of
mediating, I had my first good night of sleep. No nightmares of the families
and the people I killed. The hate in their eyes,
the blame, the guilt.” I was touched by Cyrus’s
openness and impressed with his knowledge. I realized that who I saw
before me did not appear to be a threat to anyone in uniform. He was a human being capable
of achieving virtue, honor, and respect, just as all
cognitive beings capabale of complex thought and the deep
senses are equipped to accomplish. He was not doomed. “I can’t wait to read it,” I
said, truly excited. “It reminds me of Buddhism.” Before Cyrus could reply, a
guard came in and explained to us that since it was
Saturday and a judge wouldn’t be available to formally arraign
us until Monday and so we’re going to now be transfered
to general population. This, I knew, meant that we
would be in the designated area of a block, in which we live
with around 20 or 30 other inmates. Cyrus and I followed the guard
into a small, nearby room filled with tall dilapidated lockers. “Okay, now I’m going to need
you guys to strip down in your bare asses so I can
thoroughly search you before you begin wearing your new
stylish orange jump suits,” the guard said smiling,
flashing a gold tooth. “You can choose your locker, you
don’t need a lock. I’ll keep track of your precious
things so help me,” he said delicately placing his right
hand over his chest. “Okay, who’s first?” “Me,” Cy boomed. “We got us an eager man. You eager, are you, boy?” Cyrus said nothing and
quickly undressed awaiting for further instruction. “I thought you black boys
supposed to be packing, seem to disprove that myth. Now, touch your toes and spread
them.” I noticed– I noted Cyrus
patience all while drinking in this disgusting display of
inexcusable behavior. The guard hadn’t, for a
second, got to him in anyway. He seemed transfixed at the
mental state of transcending, degradation, and humiliate. Slaving narratives that
I had read thus far permeating by thoughts, filling
me with insurmountable rage, the likes of which fiendishly
allowed my mind to picture myself brutally,
slaughtering this poor excuse for a human being. Cyrus was nothing but an
insolent child to the guard that had to be defined, stripped
of dignity, and self-worth. After establishing that Cyrus
was not smuggling anything, the guard turned toward me. “All right man, you ready? Same
drill.” I undress as quickly as
possible, quickly stuffing my clothes in a nearby locker,
all-the-while silently cursing myself without voicing my
repulsion in regard to his treatment to Cyrus. Feeling guilty that he didn’t
regard me in the same manner as if I were better than Cyrus
because of my skin color and non-threating appearance. It is odd, I thought that my
erotic nature [unknown dialogue] in this place
of detention. I knew that any outbursts would
only hinder my chance of freedom given the uncontrollable
situation. “Okay, go ahead now. Bend down
as far as you can for me. I know how it seems, but this
here’s procedure and we have to do it,” the guard said
indefinitely. After only a brief moment more,
about half the time it had took to– that it
had taken for Cy, I was given my new attire, an
elegant orange jump suit; tattered, wrinkled, and about
two sizes too small for me. The guard leads us to our new
home, C-Block. As I followed the guard inside
until we came upon a giant steel door that could only open up on
one side. Punching in the code on a
steel key pad in a highly practiced manner, the
guard stayed where he was and the giant door slowly
began creep open. A C.O., a corrections officer,
was waiting on the other side. He was around six feet tall and
gangly and with firey red hair, daunting a typical
correction officer’s uniform: a tan button up shirt, dark
brown slacks, and shiny shoes. Little did I know that something
as seemingly trivial as a pair of dress shoes woud fill
me with rage because it comes. After witnessing the degradation
of the guard with the gold tooth that had just attempted to
inflict upon Cyrus. I correlated I suppose the ones
that I have a displeasure of knowing with the recession to
look arguable and dignified. To this day, I loathe the site
of his excessibly shiny shoes. “Welcome to C-Block gentlemen. I hope there’s no problem
between you two because you are going to be cellmates. It tends to work out better this
way as oppose to just tossing you guys in with the sharks,”
the redhead C.O. said. Just then, I manage to catch a
glimpse of his brass nametag; ‘Phillips” it read. Relieved about our living
arrangement, I tailed Cyrus’s [unknown dialogue] as we
followed the ladder into our six by eight cell. As I look around, I counted
25 inmates: 10 white, one Mexican, and around 12
black men. Everyone seemed to be too
engaged in what they were doing to acknowledge us. All most everybody is playing
cards with a slight few gazing up at the TV that was bolted
high up on the north wall. C-block consisted of a large
gathering area with ten tables complete with five small wooden
stools surrounding them all constructed of stainless
steel and securely welded to the cold, cement ground. Ground floor had ten cells
stretching along the east wall and there’s a staircase that
ascended up to the second floor with possibly ten cells, which
was constructed out of steel and thrown together in what might’ve
been the early stages of the construction project. Once introduced to our cell and
after exchanging several stories about our lives, Cyrus and I
decided to pick up were we left off in our conversation. We began to talk about the
similarities of eastern and western philosophy, when a
figure appeared in our cell, which at this time open. I glanced over and saw that it
was the Mexican man I saw upon arrival. “What up guys, can I come in?” “Mi casa es su casa,” Cyrus said
with a decent Spanish accent. “Hablar Espanol?” “Nah, not really,” Cyrus said,
crude. “Well anyway, I heard
you guys talking, and you’re into something deep. I just had to get in on it. I’m sick of talking to dumb
asses who only can carry out conversation about hustling,
fucking and how hard they can get on.” “Word, I feel you,” Cyrus said. “Pop a squat man. My colleague and I, see, we
was just discussing the fact that western philosophy
is just a way to describing absolutes to shit that they
don’t fully understand. Major cats simplify, or
sometimes they do it in riddles and curves. You know kind of like Jesus,
which can make the idea seem a little complicated.” “Damn. that shit’s a little
deep, a little too– a little too over my head, man. I’m Tony, by the way,” he said
shaking hands first with Cyrus, then with me. Tony was about my height five
foot, eight inches tall with dark wavy hair,
and dark brown eyes. He seemed like a bit of a
contradiction in that he always seemed to be anxious
and calm all at once, always moving his hands with
his pockets to his sides, and wiping off his brow when he
wasn’t sweaty. “So, Tony, I inquire, do
you know anything about the anonymous donation of
book in the library?” “Yeah I guess someone stole
a few– stole a book a few months back, and the
chief told us that they– until they find out who
did it and how the library is going to be
closed.” It’s messed up man, I never
would have thought that I would get into poetry and
stuff like that, but there was some good
books in there.” “What you mean closed?” Cyrus
snarled. “Are you kidding me? I’m not
standing for this shit man.” Cyrus began to shake with rage
upon hearing this news and immediately returned to his
bed, where he sat upright, his barrel chest heaving. At that point, I was sure
something big was going to happen but nothing could prepare
me for the events that followed. “Tell me,” Cyrus called. “You got a pen and some paper
man?” “For sure, I’ll
be right back.” And with that, Tony rushed out
of the cell. Shortly there after, I laid down
and subccumbed to the night full of troubled sleep,
riffled with dreams– riffled with dreams of
warfare amongst the several classes of people
in a society as we know it. The next morning we are all
released from our cells in order to wait line for
breakfast, which was slid through a
rectangular slot built into the giant steel door on the
side iron with the rock view. Cyrus had become silent since
last night’s news about the library and I decided that I was
agreeing to remain quiet, allowing him to speak first
whenever he was ready. Food was slipped in his slot in
sectional trays and Cyrus found and received ours at the same
time. As I scanned the room for a
place to sit, I heard a loud crash behind me. I turned around and found Cyrus
had dropped his tray and scrambled eggs, toast, a dry
biscuit, and a small carton of milk were scattered all over the
floor. “God dammit” the C.O.
serving the food exclaimed on the other side of the door. “Open C-Block,” barked Phillips,
the redhead C.O. After the doors open, the C.O.
had reached Cyrus and pointed at the mess. “You did that shit on purpose.” “Nah, it was an accident sir,”
Cyrus said smirking. “The hell you say. Well, it looks like we got
ourselves a new cleaning bitch in C-Block.” “Why can’t you check out books
anyone more?” Cy demanded. “Well, it seems that one you
degenerates stole one of them, so we’re dead set on finding
out who, no matter how long it takes.” Cyrus broke eye contact with the
officer and gazed down on the floor seemingly defeated and
glum. “Aw, what’s the matter, you
think there’s something in those books for you?” Well, there’s not. We don’t have any books with
pictures of white woman and basketball stars.” With that Cyrus sprang at the
officer with deadly precision landing a barrage of jabs,
crosses, and hooks with his powerful hands. Following up by snatching the
stunned officer by his hair with both hands and forcefully
pulling his head down towards Cyrus’s right knee resulting
in a sickening thud that sent shivers up my spine. Blood was spattered all over
Cyrus’ face and clothes, and there was a little bit
of blood lust in his eyes, which were previously bright
and genial now flash with the utmost intensity
giving the experience of what temporary insanity
truly looks like. Not a moment later three
officers came sprinting to the door. Cyrus stood fast, hands at his
sides. The short, obessed man in
the lead produced a stout flashlight about eight inches in
diameter and pierce-fully struck Cryus’ temple with it,
sending him straight to the ground in crumpled defeat. The other inmates were acting
like animals. Some were jumping on tables
beating on their chest. Others were piercingly
applauding Cyrus’s efforts. No one bothered to see if he was
okay. And just as I crouched down
beside him using my tattered sleeve in a feeble attempt to
stop the bleeding, a guard violently shoved me
aside causing me to tumble over. “What the hell man? He wasn’t
resisting. That was uncalled for,” I
blurted out [unclear dialogue]. “Mind your business, kid. This here is a
hardened criminal. [Unknown dialog] little white
boys like yourself. So, don’t go crying over this
waste of skin. Everybody get in your cells,
now!” “Shut up,” everyone started
bellowing. “Fellows get a couple of
stretchers for the infirmary,” the practiced hatred
in his voice was evident, and in that moment I felt
devoid of all feeling. Back in my cell, now alone, I
prayed for Cyrus to be okay. As I was pacing back and forth
in the tiny room, I noticed a slip of paper in hand. I unfolded it and read it. “Will, I believe that everything
happens for a reason and that we were meant to meet and learn
from each other. While talking, I felt that you
really understood me as a man, and not just as a black man. Thank you for this. You’re privileged, educated, and
white, and yet you seem to empathize with the poor and
struggling masses. I have a favor to
ask you, though, be the voice of voiceless. Tell the story of the
struggling, inner-city youths, the poor, the hungry,
the forgotten, and all the lost souls. I have a feeling that is your
calling. I hope to see you soon, your
brother, Cyrus.” I was released from jail three
days after the incident, and Cyrus was gone. I learned the following morning
of the attack that Cyrus had died from the vicious blow to
the head. The guard that Cyrus had
attacked suffered from a broken jaw as well as a broken nose. The guy that killed him was
fired, but was not charged with murder; getting off by
claiming that he was acting in self-defense. There was never an article
written about the vicious murder, only a poorly written
obituary dedicated to Cyrus, which always made me want to cry
thinking about it. “Cyrus Jackson is survived by
his wife of two years, Esmerlda Lojos, and five
year old son, Malcolm [unclear
dialogue] Jackson. Also survived by his cousin, Cameron [unclear
dialogue] Jackson.” I sent Esmeralda that heart felt
letter explaining what happened to her husband, as well as
monthly checks, insisting on whatever I could spare that
month to help her raise Malcolm. She was eternally grateful and
considered his death the fault. Upon request, she sent me a
picture of Malcolm, very striking resemblance to his
father [unclear dialogue]. It’s been eight years since my
experience and I’m happily struggling to find my voice and
sobriety. For the first couple of years, I
secretly plotted for revenge; street justice, by taking the
life of the man who had murdered my friend, who suddenly broke
[unclear dialogue]. I was very close to burning his
bachelor pad located in the white part of town to the
ground with him in it; an “accidental” explosion. I eventually realized that
vengeance would only breed more pain. It would transform me into
a lost soul, robbing me of what innocence I had clung to this
far and clung to me for the rest of my life. I decided to channel my secret
rage into academic writing and literature. I still think about Cyrus and
how he taught me about human nature and the struggle
to overcome one’s innate animal instincts. I’ve been struggling to acquire
the funds necessary to launch a literary magazine, and it is
odd, but I wish to call it the “Righteous Defender,” which
would be filled with poetry, memoirs, essays, short fiction,
and artwork from prisoners and cost very little. [Audience claps]>>Male Speaker:
Busbow– David Busbow.>>David Busbow:
This is called “Halo on Heroes.” Jim Schwindel was paying to get
his newspaper. “July 13th,” he said, Robert
passed away eight years ago today, just a few months before
the 41st wedding anniversary in ’73. [Unclear dialogue] put the paper
down on the strained tabletop. He thought of the horrible
six-year-old pile of assorted manuscripts and notebooks still
sitting on one side of his big, oak desk in the next room. He thought about her. Everything is blue; I will never
see Margaret again. The gravity here is
different, everything is heavier, everything is blue. The turquoise ferns and robin
egg pebbles, the aquarium light infused through cobalt clouds,
the hint of midnight in a beetle’s smooth shell,
everything; everything is blue. Two hours later, he arranged the
manuscripts and notebooks in neat stacks. He went into the bathroom and
washed his hands and face, shaking his head to his own grey
sadness in the mirror. Then, he went downstairs to his
[unclear dialogue] apartment. Moving out of the silent,
memory-laden house was the first thing he’d done after the
funeral. After a hamburger and another
cup of coffee, he decided to go to the movie; it would be a hard
day. He walked downtown hoping there
would be a science fiction movie Jurassic Park maybe or
the original invaders from Mars. But nothing like
that was playing, and he settled for a musical. Going into the dark [unclear
dialogue] auditorium and hunting out a [unclear dialogue] seat on
the aisle. An advertisement was in progress
and he watched it without interest and suddenly wishing
he had a flashlight and a National Geographic
to thumb through. The musical came on in rude
colors; it was boring and loud. Schwindel tried to lose himself
in the pointless motion, but found he couldn’t and had to
content himself with visions of the topless and long legs of the
young women in the picture. This was distracting enough in
itself, but it was the kind of distraction that could be
painful as well as ridiculous for a lonely widower. Fidgeting and faced with
blatant sexuality, he shifted his attention
to the photography. When that didn’t work, he
cleaned his glasses on his handkerchief to avoid looking at
the screen. And finally, when one of the
pink images showed a brazier, he had to shut his eyes and turn
away until the soundtrack indicated that the scene was
over. Afterward, agitated and not
wanting just yet to have to go home and stare at those
manuscripts again, he found himself looking for
one of the bars where all the
students hung out. On their 40th wedding
anniversary, Margaret hadn’t remembered;
she didn’t even know who he was by then. He left her in the care of a
temporary nurse that night and ran out to such a bar, ended up
hoping into bed with some bubblehead at least 30
years younger than he, Christy Something-or-other. He hadn’t been able to get it
up, and endured some hurtful teasing from Christy Something
before returning home feeling gutted, ashamed, and scared. He’d never been able to forgive
himself for that attempt at infidelity. Presently, he found a small town
bar named Marty’s with signs in the front windows. He opened the door and was
greeted by the student [unclear dialogue] jukebox
that dominated the center of one wall. Pulsating with bass sounds
and the red light, like an unhealthy heart. He walked in between rows of
plastic booths sprinkled with summer students, a few
were bearded and shabby, want-to-be revolutionaries. Behind the beards, Illinois
and Iowa farm boys [unclear dialogue]. For a moment, he felt uneasy, a
tired old man with a new class. He found a space at the bar and
ordered a beer from a woman with greyish bangs and black-red
glasses. He nodded at her and guzzled it,
feeling uncomfortable in pointing it out. On the jukebox now behind his
head, a CD had started playing a folk song “The Turnings of
River.” Next to him at the bar, a
redheaded girl conversed with gloomy-eyed girl about
the texture of language; a kind of talk that makes
you want to shutter. He finished his beer and ordered
another one without knowing why. Feeling as though he
wanted to leave, to get away from the
noise and pomposity. Drinking his third,
images from the musical flickered across his mind. He smiled at the redhead next
to him; she couldn’t have been more than 18. She gave him a doubtful
look, her dark eyes grave, and he felt something hurt him. She was so attractive. He finished his beer and left. It was still almost too warm
when he walked directly home. For a moment he thought of
Jackson, his one close friend on the faculty with [unclear
dialogue] simultaneous retirements at the turn
of the millennium, and wished he could call him. Jackson had been an
understanding man until his cancer-related death last year and after months in
the same hospital. There would not seem
to be anything to say right now, anyway. Schwindel did not want to talk
about himself, his fear, his cheat-lust, his dreadful and
stupid life, talk to Margaret, Jackson, God or the unknown. There was a degree of [unclear
dialogue] sky outside the bedroom window. He sat red-eyed and staring
for several minutes on the unmade bed. Then he went into his office
and looked at the walls, crowded with new posters. He looked at the ancient grey
painted steam radiator that has been unreliable forever. On one side of his desk, his
typewriter sat like a mundane and boorish God, still holding
the seventeenth page of the fantasy that started not long
after moving in. A work unsought, unuttered, and
one that will probably always be unfinished. He looked in his files full of
manuscripts from decades passed, most never published but
impossible to throw away. Everything is so special, but
only to him. His one lonely book had never
been reprinted and he hadn’t sold a story for 20
years. Hell, I was going to conquer
the world and be one of the greatest in history. Schwindel stood with his
hands in his pockets and stared at his feet, aware of the
daze put on his body like an ant farm. “God damnit,” he exhaled,
exhausted. He opened a drawer and went
through his bill, dropping it on top of a stack of manuscripts on
the [unclear dialogue] desk. Then he straightened up and
walked wearily back out the apartment door, shutting it
softly behind him. I jumped blind into the
void, with fingers crossed; in endless, hallowing nothing,
I can’t [unclear dialogue] with a lonely world. As [unclear dialogue] away from
him, a dark blue bead rolling through [unclear dialogue] the
color of ice, September sky, Margaret’s eyes. Schwindel leaned back in the
driver’s seat, he hit the gas hard, then released it, then hit
it again, wondering if he would survive the head-on collision at
this speed. It would look like an accident;
old man had fallen asleep at the wheel, that’s what the obituary
would say in the morning. He hit the accelerator more, he
could hardly wait. When was the last time he had
said that? When he was kid, there was a
list of hardly wait for things: Christmas, [unclear dialogue],
the spring, sweet Easter and Halloween, the
universal monster films. He let the car slow, staring
ahead. “Dear Margaret,” he thought back
to college, Jim Schwindel, the handsome dog more
mature than his peers that were the same age. Jim Schwindel, a grace across
campus with the bodies of the bony girls, throwing
other people his glance as they swoon before him. Later the marriage of Jim and
Margaret, in the mornings she’d make him breakfast, humming
while she worked. She was never able to whistle. In the evenings, he’d read to
her while she bathed. Every summer they didn’t spend
teaching they’d spend traveling the continent, always promising
each other that next time they would go oversees. Fast and slow he drove, focusing
first as soon as he showed up, alone, [unclear dialogue]. Margaret, you’re really here. How’ve you been?
What? You’re the so-called writer,
make something up, a celebration, a poem- no you’ve
never been great with poems, how about– would it be able to just
say “I love you.” He slowed the car even more
looking through the windshield at moving shadows. What if she wasn’t there? She would be; she must be; it
was what she was. She had a good life, a good
marriage, she should be there. She’d been good, absolutely
incredibly good. She would be there; that would
be the proof, wouldn’t it? That he was in the right place. Eight years to the day of her
arrival, he arrived behind her. He stepped on the gas
again, aiming at a distant telephone pole. The tears that had been building
in his eyes finally escaped. What the hell have I got? What the hell? Only this monochrome
world you have me in, mustn’t think of Margaret, mustn’t consider the
distance between us, or else one might forever
hear me screaming into the silent blue. One color, one word, the color
of a jay’s wing, the color of the coursing police lights
spread across apartment windows, the pale faint trace in the
ghost flesh of forearms and [unclear dialogue], of solitude
and sadness. The clouds shimmer above him,
illuminantely, he walks on the swell of love and the
ultramarines and indigos into territories deep and
unbeknownst. He recalls her cheekbones, her
light hands, her legs moving as she walked towards him
the night they met, the novelty of her body. Oh Margaret, won’t you stay here
now? He thinks of her smile, the
slow curve of her lips, his throat tightens. Missing her embrace, he sinks to
his knees, from the cobalt clouds large shallots of rain
begin to fall. [Audience claps]>>Male Speaker:
Next up, Ms. Amberly Scarpo.>>Amberly Scarpo:
“The Lost Girl” I watched my hands, wrinkled
and pruned, working in that luke warm bubble bath all
my dishes were enjoying; slow, achy and dry. Hardly standing the pain to
come, tools, not creating, not playing. I’m not [unclear dialogue]. I finally got like a
vampire movie, it’s called “The Lost Boys.” Not lost at all, just wanderers. They might as well have been
hovering, stalling. When I thought about Peter Pan, how I used to dream
of Neverland. Imagine the life if I could lay
around all day sun bathing on the deck of a pirate ship, march
the life of following my leader, staying all day in my jammies,
my butt glowing in the breeze when one of those flimsy little
buttons came undone, wanting the whole wide world and not giving
one measly half a damn. I could be a rabbit or raccoon
or fox or bear, climb every tree I ever came across, never eat
another piece of broccoli and play hide on pixy dust. And no, not the kind that’s code
for some kind of drug I’d be way too naive to know about. Live forever in the never talked
about, undiscovered world of pure imagination, even
Willy Wonka never dreamed. But perhaps Peter was right,
and girls are just too clever to get lost. I’ll just grow up, get old, and
wash the dishes. “Scientifically Inaccurate” Tyrannosaurus Queen born on a
Sunday in the straw fur nest papa made of things stolen. Couldn’t walk quite right, so
the great big momma waddled over, licked her clean, and
sang a lullaby and gave a name that’s long lost history. For a while, life was
all piles of jellybeans and other normal
dinosaur things. Until the day she woke up and no
one was there, not the great big momma or papa or her brother or
her sister or the little boy who lived down the way. The only company she had was the
dark mist consuming the air or the ground below,
ugly, contorted, boiling like stew that
cooked her inside out. She bit at the air to stay alive
until that big, black sky reached in and took her will,
let it go, empty and alone in a great big world. And that very last dinosaur
cried tears that streaked her cheeks and salted the Earth, but
her eyelashes were so sticky that she could barely see. She gave up, heart broke, legs
weak, belly achy, tired she laid down and never got up again,
became a pile of bones, a relic, a fossil, a whisper in a tumble
weed pulled hard across the planes of Aunty Em. “Fiddles and Rockets”
For my sister. I yell, “Hey diddle, diddle. How did your cow jump over that
moon?” And the cat ran with the twisted
whiskers. Clang; clang the moon
on his violin and the [unclear dialogue]
danced in the night. Into the sky and over the moon,
kept on going past the edge of the solar system and got lost
somewhere near Andromeda. I asked my sister if she new how
to sing, but she could only hum little melodies from old nursery
rhymes. She learned that when she was
little and her spine was broken. She once said that she never
missed walking since she never did learn, and I thought that
was sad until I thought that it wasn’t. I imagined her soul climbing out
of the top-most vertebrae on the hospital floors, slide across
puddles of spinal fluid, surf through hallways and into
highways, leap frog by cars, across the state, nation,
continent, hemisphere, oceans, and sky. Seeing the world like she never
would. As we fill bellies with chicken
nuggets and Easy Mac, firmly rooted to the Earth through two
feet and a chair with wheels. We stand up at the cheese-filled
room and started to hum declaring to the moon, hoping
that her feet would start taping, and her body would start
[unclear dialogue] way, way, way away from way down here. But mister diddle diddle
lost his fiddle so we sat, fists clenched, on the tippy top
of the Earth with no music and waited until we didn’t anymore. My sister and I built a
spaceship of silly puddy and robot bits, with gears that
ground and fuel that fires. But we didn’t go because nobody
told us how to build a rocket ship, still we played pretend
until I swear to little baby Jesus that we felt it rock right
into the dark night sky. And when we took off, we missed
the moon because the moon has no gravity and our rocket had no
steering wheel. Instead, we followed Betsy into
the stars and swooned at the sights of all the worlds in the
whole universe blinking at us. “Beep, Beep, Boop,”
Yes, that’s the name. [Laughing] Android, mandroid, cyborg,
flash forward the terminator is unending. She is a humanoid and crying
about it. Tears made from oil, black
streaks stain a polyplastic elastic vinyl porcelain mask she
wears. It’s got crabs. This is the future and she’s a
robot. And she’s a she just because she
says so. She’s got no parts, just a
chest, with why girls move and a shiny metal glass with hips that
move ball and socket, ball and chain, but that old gal can-can
dance like a robot or worm or sprinkler system. It’s your world, can’t tell the
difference, down the hatch and there she blows. One, zero, one, zero, zero,
zero, one, zero, one, one, one, zero, zero, one. Finally married, means two of
them together forever. Ba-ba-ba-ba-baby, marry her, a
bolt as a ring, knees knocking, ringing her in her hollow
legs, thinks she’s nervous but she has no nerves. Square sweat squelches against
the small of her back, cooling against smooth chrome,
pulse, pulse, pulse, means there’s no heartbeat. But when he tells her that he
loves her, wants to rust together at the lips, the
feeling does not compute and the automaton breaks inside her
heart. Thank you. [Audience claps.]>>Male Speaker:
Next up please welcome to the stage, Mr. Mark Green. [Audience clapping]>>Mark Green:
Good afternoon. When you liked the ice cream,
that’s when you know. When it’s not chalked full of
shit, just a plain vanilla ice cream, that’s when you know. When your brother’s beard falls
off, you start to cry. When the doctors take his leg
and they take his eye, when you stop going for runs so it’s not
[unclear dialogue]. That’s when you know. Someday you’ll bring home a
girl and vanilla ice cream, which is something he hates. And he hates to sit there and
watch you two spoon vanilla ice cream around. Nobody wants to ask you how he’s
doing with the chemo. Nobody wants to ask you about
the bowl of ice cream, it’s not worth repeating. Up late at night, it’s him
and vanilla ice cream [unclear dialogue]. And sometimes the tears
won’t be such a big deal, and you get a laugh that could
mean there’s some hope. And you both kiss vanilla ice
cream in a silent kitchen, and that’s when you know. This is titled: “Cracks.” If you look close at your
hand, and then your finger, and you get really
close to the skin there are these little cracks
and inside of them are more. And you and me, we’re made of
these tectonic wrinkles and we nest or marry or when I make you
sit by me at the piano and you’re drinking a white wine, if
you look close it’s all cracking up and down, rooted [unclear
dialogue] the Earth without water, the wine glass on the
floor. My last poem is titled:
“April 7th.” Today, you are dying, little by
little. Tomorrow, who knows? Today, you’ve got that squeeze
and a shrug and a tiny kiss. Tomorrow, who knows? Not me, not you, not today;
tomorrow, who knows? Today, our kid unbound
the garden hose and struck a butterfly
with the hot nozzle. Today, he ran away from me. And tomorrow, who knows? Today, I got really close,
watched the tiny legs crawl outside a book, the powdered
wings pressed below. Tomorrow, they’ll be gone. A breeze into the lawn like
seeds; to leave, to scrape, to slate, too late. Today, you won’t even look at
me, too weak today. Today, I made a stance on
a log and tomorrow is [unknown dialogue]. Sometimes, you and I we say,
“Today’s a new day.” But tomorrow, who knows? Thanks.
[Audience claps]>>Male Speaker:
And finalist number seven, Mr. T.J. Markenson.>>T.J. Markenson:
This story’s called, “Peace Work in the Time of
Pistons and Prostitutes.” The bells above the door chirped
and the woman walked in; her head was cast from
shoulder to shoulder like she was expecting someone. As the door closed and
ushered in that dower smell of a rain threatening to fall. Her hair that was pin straight
stood up on her head. She wore a sequined mini skirt
that changed color with every step under the overhead lights. Her tube top left a [unclear
dialogue] half exposed like a half waning moon. A cigarette burned in her hands. Whilst she approached, she
placed her purse on the counter immediately looting inside of
it, this card and receipts, candy wrappers and loose change,
searching for something. During these slow nights at the
bowling alley [unclear dialogue] from a 1993 three-ring [unclear
dialogue] guide, which had been stashed under the secretary cash
register for four years, even before [unclear dialogue] there. When she walked in, even looking
at a diagram of a piston, pull apart it’s pieces
labeled A, B, C, and D. Aligned her jaw with piece after
sectored piece from this one origin; [unclear dialogue] it
could be brought back together. You could spend hours dwelling
on this diagram alone, studying the shapes of each of the
pieces, the shadows on their surfaces, and the thin lines
which promise to make something bold out of them. He cleared his throat
[clears throat], “Can’t smoke in here,
I’m sorry ma’am. Are you here to bowl?” She stopped her scanning
suddenly, running a hand through the coarse stray and grey hair,
turning around looking out over the desolate lanes;
scanning the panorama, her eyes squinting
in the smoke. “Place is looking kind of like
shit, kid. I used to come in when I was
younger, but you see the wall behind that pool table? And you see the mirror hanging
there below that? That’s where I got fucked up for
the first time.” [Unclear dialogue] he wasn’t–
he wasn’t sure why. He nodded with the sudden image
of a faceless man holding a faceless woman, her
breasts disembodied from cups and cradles. She cleared her throat
[clears throat], “You don’t ever forget it
kid, first hands that aren’t your own. But some days you come close to
it. You’re covered in teenage
sweat; you’re gentle in your stupid ignorance. And then, you run into the guy
years down the line at the grocery store and the first
thing that runs through your head is, ‘Well, how many
women has he felt up since?’ It’s a stupid thought for an
old woman to be thinking about an old man, but
still you think it. And you do some quick math in
your head; you calculate how many lovers has a person had in
a month and multiply that by 12. And then you do some quick math
and multiply that number by how many years it was since you and
he were pressed up against a wooden paneled wall, his
hand down your skirt, shaking with nerves
against your skin. He used to try to wear this
fancy ring on his hand, but he would leave some room for the
casual mishaps. All this happened while you
thought you were close to forgetting it, while he’s
standing there in front of you, next to the vegetables. He’s fumbling for something to
say that doesn’t bring either of you back to the bar. And then he walked to a bowling
alley you were close to forgetting and you see the place
where you felt like breasts were the way to impress a
man, which wasn’t wrong. And you remember his young face,
and you think of his old face you’ve seen since, and you try
to translate that moment. You feel it again, like you’re
walking back where it all began and it still begins; hands over
your body, cold with wet rain, warming on your scared and
excited skin. My god, strange things.” While she nodded again, feeling
faint, he pulled his eyes away from dwelling on the rough curve
of her breasts. The way she could look around a
room, point to moments where she’d left a portion of herself. The way she could discuss how
and when and who and what and why with a disconnect that left
[unclear dialogue] buckling at his knees. His eyes were snapping back and
forth from her breasts and the smoke circling her head like a
halo. She said, “I always hated
bowling. It was for something else that I
came here. That’s strange, isn’t it?” It wasn’t strange to him
but he didn’t say this, he didn’t answer her. The rain, quickening,
clapped on the tin roof like courage
[unclear dialogue]. He looked at the wall behind the
pool table and imagined this woman as a young woman, a young
girl. He could envision her almost
perfectly pressed against the wooden panels beneath the
Budweiser mirror. Her head thrown back with the
big, long curls of her hair scaling the wall behind her like
vines growing out of the Earth. Her back a clean canvas
stretched tight against jutting, forthright bones. Her left knee rising to her hip,
a short skirt pushed back, a dapper kid kissing her exposed
neck. His hands seemingly
everywhere at once, rushing from the youth of
her still smooth legs. Yeah, he imagined her like this,
whispering to whoever was by her side, “This isn’t
what I came here for.” The woman turned around and
began rooting back through her purse, her tongue
held between her teeth. Finally pulling out a condom,
she looked down at the simple watch against the
[unclear dialogue] of her too thick wrists. “I’m guessing that’s the bosses
office,” she said pointing to a closed door that his boss’s hand
printed on a wood platter. “Yes ma’am.” “All right, well back to work
then.” She walked off with sure footing
and her heels hurts, sequins sort of catching
the light in the room, reflecting it all in a sort
of radiance around her. She knocked on the door
and it opened wide enough for her bare little
body to pass through. [Unclear dialogue] slipped out
into the now empty alley, the pigeons were
wrestling silently, the lights above the lanes
collect dust risen from years and years
of existence. He looked down at the mechanics
guide, the piston, it’s pieces, the lines in-between, and he
proudly shut the book. Thank you.
[Audience claps]>>Male Speaker:
Next up, Mr. Steven Nathaniel.>>Steven Nathaniel:
“The Pain” The rapture is what racked it
against the cast-iron pan with the bullet that missed its
eye, and the pig squandered that gift of seconds,
seething and squealing, gnashing it’s teeth. When I torqued the meat hook,
spread jawbone from jawbone, spits hot blood. Well, my bucket cannot capture
the blows, bones versus snow, snow versus sky, rising in the
sea of pig rapture. And it flows, and a rise, and it
flows and it rises and it spreads itself in nothing in
that pasture. Jaded sky taking it, taking not
filled, the pig not empty. In the barn, the rasp of knives
makes you ready to begin, to tickle out these
pockets of life. “Mostly Holes” Your thin angel prince goes to
the window, where you look down. Warm hands, cold glass, and the
sun still makes the new bodies your stains, each morning. I called you sparrow until one
flew and broke itself against the kitchen’s full, quiet, and
folded its opinions like cans not clapping outside of the
white [unclear dialogue]. I chose the wrong words when
I told you about the dead, when the wind dangled it, making
it shutter, making you shout, “It’s waking!” Later, at church, you asked,
“Hadn’t I seen it rise, too?” Then you unfolded your gift,
one halved halved swallow tissue paper, mostly
holes full of light. You can see me through every
chain when you held it up, but it’s summer, I laugh. You, not fooled, spread the snow
flake in my palms, it was too light for me to walk quickly
without it shuttering away. And you followed after, even to
the door, making sure I held it close all the way home. “Camera Eye” A camera’s eye spoke shades
into coarse image shade, and I blinked but I could
not hold onto those stars. And I imagine the terror when
the first eclipse broke with thin deaf fingers a man from
their souls. Could friction, stiches, could
any [unclear dialogue]? Could hot tar, mortar, could our
sun split fixes? Fix it? No, no but oh to be held just so
turning over and over with our souls still inside of the
illumination. A blue womb to hold us, to keep
us together, tortured. To keep the lenses swaying and
tilt us left until the day lay against the sickle and red light
trickled from it and we took a picture and behold, it took us. Thank you.
[Audience claps]>>Male Speaker:
And the last reader for the evening, Mr. Deronte
Matthews. [Audience cheers and claps]>>Deronte Matthews:
Hey, my poem is called “Man Made Emotion.” At two a.m. he is awakened to
the sounds of startling noises. Catching his breath, he listens
around unrelieved that the noises are badgering male and
female voices. So, he sluggishly gets out
of bed to get to the other [unclear dialogue]. Gazing blindly out of his
windows at the cold, bitter Chicago streets, lost in the
sight of glitter and flickering lights, trying desperately to
block out the background noises of slamming doors and stomping
feet and the storm of chaos that started to ignite. Two-year-olds wailing,
a hysterical woman [unclear dialogue], a
grown man screaming, “Get out of my way, bitch.
I’m leaving.” [Claps] Bam! The door slams and his hands
shook as a result of the commotion, but he wouldn’t react
because he believed that fear was not a man’s made emotion. Two thirty a.m. he exits to
the sight of a bruised woman squatting on the floor,
legs folded, arms crossed, blouse torn and face sore. And closing his door, he
approached her and his eyes grew misty from the woman’s
seductively smelling of cherry blossoms and whiskey. So, he prepared a hot rag filled
with ice cubes, soaked in witch hazel, and placed it
gently on her swollen lip. And she swiftly unwrapped her
arms from her hips and gave a slight grin as she
mildly stroked his chin as a sign of maternal embrace. And she squeezed the rag harder
on her face. She struggled to her feet
and limped away humming the righteous gospel
tune: “Amazing Grace.” But [unclear dialogue] he felt
deep down there was no sound sweet enough to save this
wretch, that she was so lost she couldn’t be found and so blind
she couldn’t see a flame stricken from a match and on
that kitchen floor he stayed bound, empathizing his
mother’s pain caused in [unclear dialogue] explosion. But he wouldn’t give in because
he believed that sorrow is not a man’s made emotion. Three a.m. he finally returns
to his room and suddenly hears that the somber tune of the
banjos playing in the next room and it broke him. The distorted image of his
mother almost beat half dead while he hoped but she couldn’t
get that blood off her lip and just get that damn Jack Daniels
off her breath. And worse, the worst part was
that he knew the guy who blackened her eyes would be
happily invited once again to lay between her thighs and
wrestle in her silk sheets covered in moon stones and
crystal blue, hand stitched by creole women by the Louisiana
Bayou. And at that moment, he fell to
his bed for his emotions in a state of fusion, trapped in this
run-down, two-story apartment of warped illusion and emotional
confusion and there he lay smothered, cocooned, wrapped in
the safe haven of his comforter, sheets and pillows, accompanied
only by the slightest breeze invited into his room by his two
barely cracked windows. Slight enough to blow away the
dust, the dirt, the grime, left on his chest almost as if
people were wiping their feet on his heart and he tossed
and turned back and forth in distress, fragile and sore,
almost afraid of falling on the wooden floor and
shattered like crystal, champagne glasses clinging
on a New Year’s Eve toast. And after realizing that
crashing into shards couldn’t possibly make him feel any
worse, he tightened the grip on the edge of his
metal bed post and became enclosed in silence, entangled
in the unsettling arms of dead air. There was no more group of
banjos, no more maddened baby cries, no more sounds of sweaty
bodies pounding beneath rhinestones and tired worn out
sighs. Nothing, and the quiet started
to enflame his body like piercing shingles on his skin. Amplified by the pain within, he
started to dwell on the notion that he’s a damaged male with
his physics failed because he still can’t tell what the hell
is a man’s made emotion. And after the stars twinkling
above, shimmering light through his windows became brighter, he
gripped that balloon and the bedpost even tighter and
his eyes grew wet, teary, soaked like the
stones in Lake Erie. But he wouldn’t let the soft,
sweet, moist, salty tears drop like raging waves crashing into
the ocean because he believed that sadness, grief, weakness
were not man made emotions.>>Male Speaker:
[Unclear dialogue] will do the announcements and well
first– actually first, [unclear dialogue] like in the
beginning of the reading. Brad Lewis’s mother, Roberta,
could not be here because she is fatally ill, but we need to give
her a large round of applause. [Audience claps]
[Unclear dialogue.] And so, we wish her well. I’m going to do the
announcements a little differently than we did last
year for a reason that will become apparent in a moment. I’m going to start with number
eight and then announce up through number one and the ninth
place person will be read last because according
to the agreement that Mr. Butler created, the
ninth place person is to be given special consideration,
and that special consideration is that the– in the bag
next to my right foot. So, when I give the ninth place
person that person will come up and receive the lustrous gift
before me. So, without further
ado– [Audience laughs] Number eight, Mr. Ivory Watts. [Audience claps]
[Unclear dialogue] Seventh place,
Marjorie Clemente. [Waving] Bow, maybe wave, do the
fist pump [audience laughs]. Number six, Mr. David Busbow. [Audience claps]
Fifth place, Mark Green. [Audience claps]
Number four, Steven Nathaniel. [Audience claps]
Third place is T.J. Markenson. [Audience claps]
Second place, Amerly Scarpo. [Audience claps and cheers]
And our first place winner, Deronte Matthews. [Audience cheers and claps] Mr. Graves, I know you’re
ninth and everything, but we got something for you
if you don’t mind coming up. We decided that the most
appropriate gift to give the ninth place person in the Graham
Lewis Memorial Poetry award was an object that belonged to
Graham Lewis himself. He had many, many objects.
[Audience laughs] Oh, but you’re first
[unclear dialogue]. Without further ado, it is with
utmost pleasure and joy that I present you with what, if I can
get it out of the bag and don’t break it in the process, you’re
the recipient of your very own authentic Gene Simmons action
figure. [Audience cheers, laughs, and
claps] [Unclear dialogue] And if nothing else,
this will be your retirement fund
someday. [Audience laughs]
Cherish that. Thank you all for coming. [Audience cheers and claps] And
people are welcome to stay, continue socializing and eating
and all that. Thank you again. [Audience claps] [No audio]

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