I’m listening to a poet at Aromas Cafe in Newport News. Every second Tuesday of the month they have an open mic poetry night; the man reading now is a local professor and he’s amazing. Truly. His voice travels, modulating low & then speeding up and it has been so long since I’ve attended anything like this I feel my heartbeat mimic the patterns of his verse. I haven’t been to a reading, probably, since college. And I love Aromas even on off nights, when the staff is here till 10 and that’s late for this town. I love coming here to edit, being able to be as secluded from the world as I like or as involved, chain smoking outside to get a break from the words. But here, I am surrounded by words, pictures of James Dean & coffee sacks as decoration. I am peaceful here, and I’m grateful for it.
Next month, despite my absolutely desperate terror (it is so much more than a phobia, I promise), I am hoping to read. Fiction has always, somehow, been easier for me to share. Fiction is a craft you can hone, practice at, edit and edit and edit. Poetry has always felt more spontaneous to me. I feel it’s not something you can learn, and so I’m afraid of it. I’ve never believed that I have inherent talent for anything, I learn things, I work at them, and then I am accomplished. So, anyway, what I’m thinking of reading, I’d really love your thoughts (to explain a bit, I studied Romanticism while living in Rome, the English poets were huge there):
I want to write something spectacular
for you, for Keats, for the classical music that you love.
I want to shake the halls of Poets’ Corner at the Abbey,
and drop the stars on Newton’s head.
Il Colosseo will fill with water,
and what’s left of Foro Romano will fall,
all of Rome will be at your feet-
you mighty conqueror, you.
Ha! With blue eyes, slightly clouded with hurt-
you can’t describe it-
a soft artist’s voice
and guitar (you don’t know how to play) as your weapon-
why would this place collapse for you?
Layers of strength
built long before your disruption.
You are just dust on Rome’s boot.
Spray paint on the Met.Ro train.
Romans are a proud people-
patriarchal, opinionated, not-quite-welcoming.
You are a shy Yankee child,
Southern accent sticking out around Havahd Yahd.
A former Georgian peach
who still tastes just as sweet
who’s smell sends me reeling, down on my knees,
but trust me, Piazza di Spagna doesn’t bow.
Beyond the ancient city,
hidden in 18th Century coffee shops
there is a whole other world
of siete Euro cappicinos
and the whisperings of Shelley.
The Brownings lived three hours north, Florence, and even here
when the wind blows south,
you can feel that warm English love.
You can feel the Catholic love
floating through Vatican ritual
and hanging in the Sistine Chapel;
strung up like Michelangelo.
Ten more minutes as the sky darkens over
a little chapel just next door-
the fluorescent lights of this Kushling Wing are stark against this soft gray/blue evening-
and the church bells through Trestevere ring in diechiotto.
I have visions of Wordsworth’s words,
beauty to make even Byron’s heart restless and full and as the night falls I fear the end of that beauty,
I realize the failure of whatever VIRTU I had and I miss you.
Rome will not be at your discretion,
Romans may not invite you in,
but I, I will sneak to the Ring Road
and kidnap you on my Vespa
into the old, stone city.