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For your sakes, I wish I was Michael Beadle.

That’s what I told the crowd at Foothills Arts Council in Elkin last Saturday evening where we’d gathered for live music by Angie and Marc and LIVE POETRY by Michael. I’m talking LIVE! Every time I’ve experienced a poetic happening with Michael Beadle my creative metabolic rate has been kicked up at least three notches. Brainstorming the Zoo Poetry project we did together with Pat Riviere-Seel and Sue Farlow three years ago; joining a dozen other Jabberwockers to act out the poem at Michael’s direction; wandering through Weymouth Woods to collect haikuopons — energy is what Michael brings to poetry.

Alas, on Saturday Michael had a health issue at the last minute and couldn’t make the gig, but fortunately I have two of his books, so I pretended to be him for a few minutes (sort of like Danny DeVito pretending to be Arnold Schwarzenegger). And I had brought Plank Road and other books by Shelby Stephenson for show-and-tell before we launched the open mic. No crowds rolled in the guillotine clamoring for my head. No disappointed metaphorists vowed to forever give up the verbal art in their disappointment. No babies cried. McRitchies Winery did not run out of hard cider. We had a pretty good time together.

But we sure missed Michael.

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We also had music by singer-songwriter-acoustic guitarist Angie Caswell accompanied on baritone guitar by Marc Curtis. Angela says she’s been singing since she could speak and has studied music all her life. She enjoys writing acoustic jams that uplift and inspire. She loves to lead worship but also to recreate top 40 hits in artsy, indie fashion. Angela currently lives in Elkin, North Carolina and says, “I aspire to change things, one song at a time.”

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Poems by Michael Beadle . . .

from An Invented Hour, © 2004 Michael Beadle

there’s
more
of me
to go
around
these days

but

less
of me
comes
back
when
I’m done

–     –     –     –     –

even now
Truth is
curling up

her red
carpet
to go

on tour
with the
circus

–     –     –     –     –

from Friends We Haven’t Met, mavenpress © 2008 Michael Beadle

melting footprints
in the snow

seems like
something bigger
has been here

–     –     –     –     –

something
so small
and beautiful

wants

to give
its life

to break
your heart

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And here’s a little instant replay of open mic:

by Leighanne Wright

if you were the hawk I saw yesterday

flying up and crossing over
winging along side
so I could know her
for mere seconds
but years really
each feather forever etched
upon my memory
then she was off
higher than I could go

I may have lost sight of her
but never lost the vision
or the experience of being next to her
and although my presence
may have changed her velocity
could it be said
that I affected her too?

Leighanne Martin Wright is executive director of the Foothills Arts Council in Elkin, NC

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photo credit: Leighanne Wright

by Dominic Neumark

Vanitas

Whither does the skull in the old painting look
…an hourglass and a candle by its side?
Does it see the passing of time or of life?

How appropriate, a painting on brink of winter
Death treads through snow, among dead trees
Not a monarch…but a swindler.

For who could say that he comes at a good time?
Always too early, always too late.
At the gate of your home, boots dark with grime.

Then there’s the candle, a flickering light
Seemingly alive, like a dancing sprite
Then gone without a fight.

Ah, and the hourglass…what does it say?
The grains gone to the bottom long ago
Telling the victims of fate: “life too shall pass.”

…but what of undone deeds (and) unfulfilled desires?
What of countless “what ifs” and “could haves?”
“Silence!” says the skull. “No need is now dire.”

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photo credit: Leighanne Wright

by Kim Seipel-Parks

In my grandmother’s kitchen

She lets me make
the biscuits.

Standing on the stool’s woven seat
that creaks and moans, I wear
her apron,
black
with bright embroidered flowers.
(It’s long enough to hide my shoes.)
The flour puffs into a cloud
as she pours it in the bowl –

some settles on my nose and dusts
my eyelashes.
In an exploration, my tiny fingers
make trails,
push the flour to the sides, dig a hole
that she fills with buttermilk.

My fingers wade into the coldness,
search for the bottom and pull
the flour in.
Making a fist, the sloppy dough
squishes through.
Skin loose and wrinkled,
knuckles swollen,
her hands guide mine.

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photo credit: Leighanne Wright

by Mary Oliver, read by Jane Hazelman

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling

a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

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photo credit: Leighanne Wright

by Bill Griffin

Canada Goose, Country Road

Dressed like a bouncer in some pretentious restaurant
or Jesse Ventura with the cameras rolling
you and your lady friend disdain my car,
a diffident amble down the white line,
deliberate steps deliberately unperturbed.

Goose, I want you to be afraid
because I am afraid of feathers and blood
on the tarmac, on my bumper –
last spring I saw your ungainly progeny
one minute all down & punk & pursuing gape,
the next minute opened like a meat counter specialty.

I honk, but you say, “Well, that sounds like ‘Hello,’”
so I hop out, raise my arms. Look here, Anseriformes,
this is a mammal and a big one!
But you don’t care,
who’s backed down a fox and flattened a weasel,
who’s forsaken migration and become a million.

Another strategy – I rush your mate.
Now you’re paying attention! and I’m glad to retreat
from your hiss and spit; when you’re certain I’m humbled,
you follow her along into the field
with one more sibilance that sounds like, “Asshole”;
I drive off with a clear conscience and cosmic permission
to order fried chicken for lunch.

from Barb Quill Down, Pudding House Publications © 2004 Bill Griffin

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Let the beauty we love be what we do.
— Rumi

Visit Michael Beadle online at http://www.michaelbeadle.com/
And plan for some LIVE POETRY when the Foothills Arts Council invites Michael back sometime later this year.

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Each of us needs a friend who challenges us a little.  Someone who expects more from us than we expect from ourselves.  Who wiggles something interesting in our peripheral vision, something we may not have thought about in years, and just knows we will turn and reach for it.

I have a friend like that who wiggled poetry where I just couldn’t quite ignore it.  About twenty years ago Anne Gulley called: “Bill, the Friends of the Library is sponsoring a poetry series, and I think you should come.”  “The last poem I read was Walt Whitman in college.  Well, I think I did try to write Linda a poem for our twentieth anniversary.”  “There, you see.”

When I took German in high school our teacher, Herr Watt, spent as much time narrating all the Wagnerian operas for us as he did on pronunciation and declension.  He insisted, “This is important!  It’s part of your allgemeine Bildung*.”  Maybe it was curiosity, maybe I recognized the need to beef up my allgemeine Bildung, maybe it was a sheepish feeling of being undereducated, but I went to the series: six Sunday evenings reading contemporary poets I’d never heard of like A.R.Ammons and Sharon Olds.  Holy Zeitgeist, this was writing as fresh as today’s Washington Post and a couple of orders of magnitude more compelling.  My brain fizzed.  Thanks, Anne!  And the very best part was the instructor.

Joseph Bathanti drove down from the mountains for each of those Sunday sessions. So calm, so coaxing, another friend who just naturally expects more from you than you even expect from yourself, he held out a handful of seeds to the squirrels of our curiosity with confidence that we’d come.  When we read Ammons’s Hymn I shuddered to discover language that melds lyricism and physics, imagination and biology, the particular with the cosmic.  I had to discover more of this stuff.  I’m still discovering.  Thanks, Joseph!

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Last month Leighanne at the Foothills Arts Council called to see if I’d like read some poems at an event she was planning.  Music by “Not Your Usual . . . ,” wine by Grassy Creek, eight readers, she titled the evening BEAT!  If there are going to be beatniks, you can’t neglect Allen Ginsburg, so I decided to read America, but I also wanted to introduce folks who don’t know his work to our newest NC Poet Laureate – Joseph Bathanti.  I re-read Joseph’s newest collection, Restoring Sacred Art, and finally chose to read Your Leaving.

What grabs me about this poem (besides the razor sharp dead center descriptions) is the complexity of the characters, artfully revealed in just a few lines.  There’s the father laughing drunk the night before his daughter’s wedding, then next day standing stoic in his “mourning suit.”  Marie, giggling in a muumuu with her bridesmaids, is transformed, “perfect in all the ways a bride desires to be.”  Mother, one moment stern and organizing, the next moment lost “on the edge of her bed, still in her house dress.”  And of course there’s the little brother, angry at the cousins and the loss of his bed, but struggling with a greater loss as he begins his “apprenticeship as an only child.”  Ambivalence, conflict, longing, revelation – reading these lines is to walk into a new household and become part of the family.

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Your Leaving
for Marie

The night before you married,
Pap’s godsons from Detroit
got him drunk and I had to help
wrangle him upstairs, so mad

I threatened to punch them.
Married men, cement finishers
with mortar grey hands who spoke
broken English with Michigan accents,

they wore Bermuda shorts, undershirts,
black socks and tennis loafers.
My outrage made them laugh.
A father marrying off his only daughter,

his best girl, after all, is entitled
on the eve of the wedding
to drink as much as he wants.
Pap laughed too,

but he felt sorry for me.  Like them,
he figured I was still innocent.
We laid him in my bed.
Mother wouldn’t sleep with him,

“stupid drunk
the night before his daughter’s wedding.”
She blinked the porch light off and on
to signal you in from kissing

your fiancé in his red MG,
the first Protestant
to marry into the family.
No wonder Pap got drunk;

it was you last night home.
Your bridesmaids slept over,
cosmetic kits and high, spun hair,
spit-curls scotch-taped to their cheeks,

rustling aqua gowns lounging
from the mantel on cloth hangars.
the six of you stayed up all night in muumuus,
laughing and eating popcorn.

Downtown, the groom and his ushers cheered
the stripers at the Edison Hotel.
I had nowhere to sleep,
so I crawled into your empty bed, and began

my apprenticeship as an only child.
The next day, Pap got up
and donned his mourning suit.
The girls descended the porch steps

in single file, heads bowed
over nosegays as the photographer
stilled each for posterity.
And you, only twenty, behind them,

without hesitation, disguised
in wedding dress and veil, perfect
in all the ways a bride desires to be,
the repeated click of the camera

documenting those first irrevocable seconds
of your leaving once and for all,
while upstairs Mother san on the edge
of her bed, still in a house dress.

© 2010 by Joseph Bathanti, Star Cloud Press, Scottsdale AZ

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A couple of years after that Friends of the Library series Anne called again.  “We’ve arranged a Saturday morning poetry writing workshop at the Arts Council.  I really want you to meet Frank Levering.  And Bill is going to be there.”  A whole new story – estrangement, reconciliation, inspiration, new friendships.  Anne, you can’t quit challenging me!

While I was trying not to step in the bear scat on Albert Mountain two weeks ago, the Foothills Arts Council held opening night for Anne’s show Mythology–eyes, which will be up through most of November.  Her oils, from almost pocket-size to wall filling, are for me a little like that Ammons poem.  Rooted in closely observed and rendered beasts, landscapes, they branch and soar into surreal planes that challenge me to see, to think, to discover.  Thanks, Anne!  My allgemeine Bildung continues to accrue.

Here’s a photo of Anne cloistered in her Cabinet of Curiosity, and me reading Your Leaving at the FAC.

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*   Allgemeine Bildung = general culture, or education – Google the phrase for 17 megahits.

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