Once again, the world changes....
I begin with my second trip to Staples in the space of two hours. I flash a smile at George the Copy Guy, who flushes, and help myself to the self-service copier. Twenty dollars later, I am finished, laden with more poetry than I'll need. Anything to delay making a decision.
Aisha at the checkout counter looks at me curiously; I wave. You look nice, she says. I was wondering if you were twin sisters, or older sister- younger sister. I wonder which of us she thinks was older, the lipsticked scarf-wearing version that I am now, or the washed out just-rolled-out-of-bed one that she saw when I was in earlier, buying paper and ink.
As I drive, I pass near to the site of recent wreckage. Death toll stands at four, no IDs as yet. The news footage showed a charred black hole smouldering and smoking, choking out the sunset. My stomach clenches and I work to thrust the scene from my mind.
I arrive early enough to finalize my reading choices, and organize the copies for easy access. I am graciously welcomed by a woman named Pamela, who looks just as a librarian ought, who tells me I look just like her idea of a poet. Go on, build me up. I don't intend to tell you this is my Very First Reading.
I wear my Charming Artist face, the one that fools even me. I am introduced to, and cheerfully become enamoured of, a tiny darling woman named Lillian who taught school for fifty years. She will be reading, also. It doesn't hurt that she cups my cheek and tells me that I'm an exquisite creature. Guess I did a good job with the makeup today. Another librarian-reader, John, offers me a tour of the library. I take it.
Returning to the meeting room, we encounter my friends from MWA, Scott and Sherry Morrow, who happen to own three of my favorite young women, one of whom is with them. What have you been feeding Arianna? Purina Kid Chow, they reply. I'll feed mine the cheap brand, then: Arianna's grown four or six inches since I saw her last.
It is nearly ten of one when I am able to approach the coffee that's been set up. Furtively, I pull a turquoise napkin from my briefcase. In it is wrapped a tiny bottle of my friend Margaret's home-brewed kahlua. I offer to mix one for Sherry, as well. She is moderating, and her voice is already shaky. We haven't even started. I pour a healthy dose for her, and a smaller one for me. It's too late for bottled courage to help me now.
Pamela, beside me, is noticeably nervous. She wears more lipstick than when I met her twenty minutes ago. I send soothing energy at her, fearful of disturbing her composure with a hug.
Sherry makes introductions. Lillian reads two poems that she's always liked by a Baltimore poet, Countee Cullen. Sherry, voice still shaking, reads some poems from Scribble, the literary magazine that she edits. Then she calls me to read.
First. I had hoped to be sandwiched in the middle, or to be at the end, fearing that I may make some folk uncomfortable with my stagey presence. I suppose Sherry felt that I wouldn't mind going first, and she was right.
After a brief bio and a plug for Watergate! the Musical, I begin to read. I am clear and distinct, rushing a bit, perhaps, stumbling only once, on the first line of the last poem. I begin with the brief Morning Mirror, move to the lengthy Letters Home, followed by Restraint and City Plows (appropriate, as there's snow in the forecast, evidenced by the sparse attendance) then finish with Exposure and Winter Sprite. There is applause. I sit.
Pamela is called next, and after a few bashful remarks about not wanting to follow me, she warms up, and is very well received. I close my eyes to listen to the poets who follow, for when I use my sense of sight, I write, or think, or make lists, under attack by my Monkey Mind.
The reading ends. I am thanked effusively. Sherry requests a copy of City Plows, Broken Or Not, for publication in Scribble. She confesses that she stays up to watch the snow fall, too. I hand her also copies of the poems I brought and did not read. It's an informal form of submission, but you never know. If Sherry includes City Plows in this issue or the next one, it marks my debut as a published poet.
I draw breath and exit the library. The phone rings. Hawk is calling from Detroit, where he is driving through a blizzard. Safe.
Exhale. The sun pushes through a hole torn in the clouds.