International Imaginarium For Word & Verse (November 29, 2022)

 

Paul Szlosek (Photo Courtesy of Robert Eugene Perry)

PAUL: Hello everyone! I want to welcome you all to the very last International Imaginarium For Word & Verse of the year 2022. I hope all of you (who celebrate it) had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have recovered sufficiently enough from your Turkey Day feasting to listen to some amazing poetry tonight. As I peer out into the audience I see we have a rather intimate group of under a dozen people gathered here this evening, and I want to thank you all for joining us on this chilly late Autumn night when you could have been cozy and warm in your own homes instead. 

We have such an incredible feature for you tonight, a very good friend of mine and one of the very first poets I met when I was first introduced to the Worcester-area poetry community close to thirty years ago. I’m sure many of you are already familiar with her, but for those who are not, Eve Rifkah is the multi-talented poet, writer, journalist historian, teacher, and editor who received the Stanley Kunitz Medal in 2021 for her lifetime commitment to poetry and the poetry community. I will be inviting Eve up to the stage for the customary Imaginarium interview in just a few moments, but before I do, I would like to officially open this November edition of the Imaginarium with a poem appropriately entitled “November” written by the the British poet and humorist Thomas Hood over a 180 years ago…

November

No sun‭ — ‬no moon‭!
No morn‭ — ‬no noon‭ —
No dawn‭ — ‬no dusk‭ — ‬no proper time of day.

No warmth,‭ ‬no cheerfulness,‭ ‬no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member‭ —
No shade,‭ ‬no shine,‭ ‬no butterflies,‭ ‬no bees,
No fruits,‭ ‬no flowers,‭ ‬no leaves,‭ ‬no birds‭! —
November‭!

—Thomas Hood

And now on with the show! Before I call Eve to the stage for our customary Imaginarium interview that always precedes the feature, I’d like to first let you know a little more about her…

Eve Rifkah

Eve Rifkah is a poet of history and myth. She earned her MFA writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was co-founder of Poetry Oasis, Inc. (1998-2012), a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets. Founder, and editor of DINER, a literary magazine. She is the 2021 recipient of the Stanley Kunitz award. She has five books published. Presently Rifkah teaches courses on poetry at Worcester Institute for Senior Education (WISE). Further information can be obtained on her website at eve-rifkah.com.

Please welcome to our virtual stage, Eve Rifkah!

Good evening, Eve! Thank you once again for agreeing to do this. Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. My first question for you this evening is how were you first exposed to poetry?

EVE: First exposure – The Colliers Junior Classics – this set of 10 books came with the encyclopedia my dad bought when I was 5. The first volume had fairy tales and rhymes the last volume had poetry.

PAUL: Can you tell us about some of your favorite poets and the reasons why you like them?

EVE: (B. H.) Fairchild for his poem “Beauty”. Brigit Pegeen Kelley, her poem “Song”. (W. B.) Yeat’s – “Song of the Wandering Aengus”. E. E. Cummings – being turned on to Cummings in 10th grade literally changed my life.

PAUL: How has your writing style changed and progressed throughout the years?

EVE: Changed – well of course! I thinks one begins writing from I perspective – to grow is a swerving away from the I to encompass all. In my writing in the last 20+ years I have gotten into persona poems, a becoming of someone else. As some use drugs or meditation or… to escape their lives, for me it was books from early childhood to the now of pulling on the skin of another.

PAUL: What do you feel is your primary motivation to write poetry?

EVE: Escaping who I am. Of becoming more than what I think I am – Ok that doesn’t make much sense. When it became too expensive to do the sort of art I did, I turned to writing. It’s not what form art takes it’s being creative that counts. I have a need to be creative and to make something that hopefully will move others and last beyond my last breath.

PAUL: What is your own personal definition of poetry?

EVE: Words that incorporate a sound, a rhythm. I recall hearing Ray Bradbury say in an interview that all good writing is poetry. As indeed I often read passages from his books – particularly, Something Wicked This Way Comes, aloud.

PAUL: What do you feel are the most vital aspects of poetry (imagery, rhythm, word choice, etc)?

EVE: This is a hard one. In my first book it was giving voice to the voiceless. While that is still important – definitely why I’m working on my present project of persona poems about the homeless of Worcester. But also to journey into myth, and to see the world around me. An exploration.

PAUL: Could you tell us briefly about each of the many collections of poetry you have published?

EVE: My books: Outcasts: the Penikese Island Leper Hospital 1905-1921 – documents the men and woman dealing with a stigmatic, disabling disease. To try to tell what it’s like to be in this situation with compassion. Dear Suzanne – a novel in verse about the artist Suzanne Valadon. I fell in love with Renoir’s painting of her when I was about 6. It wasn’t until I moved to Worcester in 1983 and saw a poster of a painting she did at a yard sale that I learned that she was an artist – not just a model and mother of Utrillo. Scar Tissue – the telling of my favorite Aunt Corinne’s story – her early years in a foster home, then the cruel, Cinderella-ish step-mother. A life of sadness. Lost in Sight – only book in which the poems were written as stand-alone. One Kid a Telling – a memoir of my early childhood.

PAUL: Since three of those books are historical poetry, could you tell us what attracts you to writing that particular genre of poetry?

EVE: I love to do research – to discover new things. In this way I can be “working” on a book without writing! Also it focus’s me on a subject unlike writing an individual poem. When I am finished with a poem; I can look at my notes and see what to write about next.

PAUL: How would you describe the poetry you are currently writing?

EVE: I want to write a series of poems to give voice to the homeless in Worcester – today’s lepers. Homelessness is a stigma. People are afraid, they look away, feel embarrassed. Yet each of these unfortunates has a story. No one says when they are a child, I want to homeless when I grow up. What happened? What got in the way of living a functional life? Perhaps I if can tell their stories well enough it will help remove a tiny bit of the stigma.

PAUL: Do you recall the first poem you ever published? Could you tell us where it appeared, and if possible, share it with us now?

EVE: The first poem published was printed in Braille. It’s about a blind child who is taken to fireworks by his mom. She describes what she is seeing – uses her fingers on his skin to describe the burst of light. (I need to look up the title when I get home).

PAUL: Have you developed a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?

EVE: I wish I could say that I have a routine, but I don’t. Frankly I’m a great procrastinator. I often need to force myself to write. Though having a series to work on helps a great deal. Gives me a place to start.

PAUL: Eve, I think I recall that you received your M.F.A. at Vermont College in Montpelier. Could you tell us what it is like to pursue your Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and do you think that is something every poet should do?

EVE: Getting an MFA was important to me because I didn’t have a college degree. I worked with 2 wonderful teachers, Robin Behn and Ralph Angel and 2 horrible teachers. I love doing the work – I did more than many others. I got so into writing essays. Yet the prose writing was never criticized on a ‘how did I write’ and I’m not that great in grammar and sentence construction so I feel that my teachers failed me in that area. They only commented on content. It helped me get a job as a freelance journalist. I definitely don’t feel that everyone should get a MFA

PAUL: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to write poetry?

EVE: The obvious – READ everything you can. Stuff you like. Stuff you don’t like. Listen to recordings and go hear other poets. Be cautious – some great readers can make a telephone book sound good; some not good readers are wonderful poets. Edit! Rewrite – Read aloud your work, listen for the glitches in sound. Sound is just as important as content.  

PAUL: My final question of the evening is there any question that you would like to answer about your life, or poetry, or anything else that I have failed to ask you during this interview, and if so, could you answer it, please?

EVE: What do I want from my writing? I want validation for what I do and for who I am. I know I won’t be famous; I won’t get big bucks for my readings or have my books reviewed in the   NY Times book reviews. I do want to be recognized by my peers – why the Kunitz medal was so important. Last week I saw a production of a play based on my first book Outcasts. That Scott Barrow thought my poems were important enough to write the play. That book gave me two of the most important experiences in my life first when Joanne Santos told me I gave her, her grandmother (one of the lepers of Penikese), and second see the play, seeing my people come to life.

I grew up feeling that I am a very insignificant person and fighting that. Having come from a dysfunctional family, not having a college degree until my 50s, working part-time low-wage jobs, and being a single mom on welfare; all these things are life scars. Getting the Kunitz award, watching the play, and now being here at the Manship Artist Residency and being treated as if I am important has strengthened my feelings of self-worth.

PAUL: Well, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Eve, thank you so much for such thoughtful and informative answers. Now, folks, please enjoy the poetry of Eve Rifkah:

EVE: The following poems have not been published and are some of my stranger poems…

Going Home

For Suzanne Valadon 1865-1938

Paris called my dreams to life.
Here where I don’t speak the language
yet all is familiar
the many stairs leading from one street to another.
stone walls, cafes with tables stretched
on narrow sidewalks
a street musician comes to play
shrugs, walks away

I walk up twisted streets
past bakeries and grocers
galleries selling the same painting
to tourists clutching a piece of Paris
I have come home though not home
to where she lived and died
before I was born

at the church on top of the hill
the city spread below
a skirt of many patches
a juggler climbs a lamppost
twists his body into contorted forms

I go to her grave
tell her nothing
I know I loved a woman
by sight alone
or rather through Renoir’s brush
before I saw her image from her own hands

I have come to say
I loved in my loneliness
you had nothing to do with
I tell your spirit, I wrote your life
entwined with my own

Now I can close the door
on the past
board the plane
go back home
my real home
where she dances
on my wall.

–Eve Rifkah

Joint Solitude

in her pack, boards, nails, hammer
she walks the path into the woods of aged hickory, maple, elm
finds just the right tree

places her hands on the rough bark
breathes a prayer of sorrow and sorry
but for her there is no other way.
nails the boards to the trunk

begins to climb
until reaching the lowest branches
switches to living rungs for assistance
climbs as high as can be
sees over the crown of leaves
all the varied greens

this is what she wanted
this is all she wanted
to sit in a tree
way above
to call to the birds
to feel wind lap her skin unblocked

she leans against the thickest branch
whispers thank you to the tree
for its support intentional or not

thinks about naming this tree
that she doesn’t consider her tree

decides to name the tree
in her own thoughts
to talk in silence
of course, one sided
but who knows?

she hopes the tree understands
this tree she calls Grace
will live a long life
will long to hold her
in open embrace.

—Eve Rifkah

He asked if I flew with flowers

can’t say that I fly 
suspend belief
though I do in dreams 
feet not touching 
stairs – floating more than flying
always down never up
a smooth descent

must say that I stay
rooted to the ground
well not rooted
nothing sprouting from my feet
rather grounded 
soles solid on earth
rocks       moss    leaves

always walking on the past
pushing memories into the ground
nourishing the now of me

—Eve Rifkah

The Gravity of Time

She looked back – head turned,
feet going one way, sight another.
The group spread like turkeys
gobbling in conversation.
She in front looked back hearing
a slip in conversation, some show seen and dismissed.
Now the day all glorious sun,
wind ruffling dry grass, hair blowing into eyes.
A perfect day for a hike.

Yet looking back, a slip, a tweak, a muscle
stretched where it didn’t want to go.
Pain occurs fades and returns.
Next morning not as easy to climb from bed, hobble
downstairs. She feels the prick of pain,
imagines a tiny devil with trident and sly grin.
Imagines she isn’t as old as she is.
A crone she yells, the wise woman ha!
Not wisdom coming to this one,
only muscle sags, skin loosens,
wrinkles walk down the face where there weren’t any yesterday.
It was yesterday, wasn’t it?
When skin was smooth, muscles taut,
she could walk for hours up hill and down.

She recalls the photo taken in some other time,
a lithe woman standing on a boulder,
arms raised to the sun. In the distance
the ocean foams and dances, light glinting
off the curve of wave.
The photo hidden in the bureau drawer under a sea of socks.

Today as pain girdles her waist, she knows time is not on her side.
Her knees grumble while going uphill, upstairs.
Another birthday flying in as the calendar
shrivels right before her eyes
singeing another year away.

—Eve Rifkah

Incantation

Initiation V: Teaching painting by Laura Marshall

I know they are rejoicing
three women perched on a red cushion
a tribe of their own making
I know they will sing in harmony with each other
the fields, mountains and of course, the birds

two wear large bird head coverings
owl ptarmigan
they accompany themselves
rattle skin drum
one wearing a turtle pendent looks at us

they have come to sing away sorrow
to see in the night
to witness our pain
they have come to teach us
our connection
the singers, the audience, all things alive
seek wisdom
they sing
hold the rhythms of our drum
the rattleshake
take these sounds into your body
take our breath our air our wind
make it your own

the performance will have no end
we take it home
in our bones our dreams

—Eve Rifkah

Mary

they call me the virgin, still
what do they know of the years
since holy birth wrapped
in the scent of goat and ass
what is holy?
a healthy child, a good man

my body picked and used
but the child was mine as well

Joseph a good man
cared for me well
and I did love him
after a time

the wonder disappeared
perhaps my son’s birth forgotten
no one sought me out
merely the mother
of another wandering man

years and years, I didn’t know
if I was his mother still

my son returned called messiah
by a herd of smitten believers
yet he was my son
I followed him with my eyes
hungry from fallow years

oh, my witless son
in anger stoked anger
didn’t he know
wealth rules belief?
the Romans knew what power was
pharisaic gold the heavy end of balance

or was it his faith
manipulated
and death what
his father intended?

his body
hung for the crows to sing to
my son my son
in slow drip of death

I too drained
triply cursed

—Eve Rifkah

To begin what never not scared me

boxes of pastels, pencils, paints
neatly nestled together harmony

the paper pristine perfect
pure

not to mar despoil dirty
(bruise hurt scar blemish)
mark of Cain

my hands
flutter and still

pick up put down

pencil first

not colors

not now

only black

as darkness as fear

ebony rich

—Eve Rifkah

in sheep’s clothing

the knit branches mingle, hold hands
cross and bend in still wind
knit purl slip knit

yarn spun from the sheep that live
with the lady at the end of the road
top of the hill
a patchwork of fields seamed in stone
herringboned in wood
the flock moves from one end to the other
November winds blow
them into a huddle of cloud

in the spring, I pick white and black
my hands sink into warm thickness
anointed with lanolin, oiled and scented
the ewes shorn naked and scrawny
relieved of winter weight

sitting at the wheel the rush and whir of spin
the treadle thumping in rhythm
with wind and breath
I feed fleece into the mother-of-all
in the arms of the maidens
I spin music and motion and yarn

wind on the niddy-noddy spun like
a majorette’s baton make skeins
wash clean
hang the skeins on the swift stretched wide
pull the yarn into balls

I knit trees growing roots
with bamboo needles from China
trunk to twig
in November grays
a sweater for my winter
walk into the fields

note: mother-of-all and maidens are parts of treadle spinning wheel. The mother-of-all a horizontal piece that holds the upright maidens which hold the bobbin spinner. A niddy-noddy is a device that makes measured skeins. One cycle is two yards.

—Eve Rifkah

No other way

Let me go tranquil as the twilit light.
free from fear of pain,
of diamonds falling from the sky

dance into open doorways
in cloudless rooms
shadows chase shades into corners

I have this hand my hands
clasped and unclasped
reaching to shake the bones
double six snake eyes

let me go

gentle as the pie cooling
as my hands again
shaking off this apron

first taste dreams of never ending
last is memory

air still the lamps clicked off
let me go

—Eve Rifkah

Pavlova

meringue and whipped cream
as light as Anna fluttering in her tutu
berries summer sweet

a dessert for the queen of dance
I whisk egg whites add the starch.
shape to mountain cloud
hollow to form a bowl
bake until firm

whip the cream add vanilla and honey
top with berries, reds, and blues and nearly black
a tart reminder that all things aren’t
what you expect but still desire

—Eve Rifkah

PAUL: Wow! That was just so fantastic, Eve! Thank you so very much! Everybody, let’s show our appreciation for such a wonderful feature by putting our hands together, and giving a rousing round of applause for Eve Rifkah!

We’ll be taking a short intermission in a few minutes before we come back with our virtual open mic, but now it’s once again time to present this month’s Imaginarium group poem. Since this is our last group poem of the year, the theme was fittingly the year 2022. Contributors were asked to send us one to a dozen lines beginning with either “This was the year of…” or “This was the year that…”. All contributions we received (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) were then compiled and included in this month’s Imaginarium Group Poem. I want to thank Howard J Kogan, Karen Durlach, and A. J. Wilson (AKA Poetisatinta) for participating and making the following poem possible (Poetisatinta’s contribution can be found published as an individual poem on her website Let’s Write…):

The Year 2022

This was the year the threatened
Red Tide happily died at sea.

This was the year we stopped
mentioning his name,
people even gave up Bridge.

This was the year of discovery and recovery
but for some, a year of death and misery
a year of hypocrisy, invasion, and migration
of numerous variants and vast inflation
while we observed the effects of climate alteration
and now there’s controversy with the World Cup situation.
In the UK we had a glut of Prime Ministers
and the cost of electricity is bleeding us dry
there was joy in June celebrating the jubilee
but tears within months when we had to say goodbye
as a nation we joined together in the mourning
but now we have hope with the rise of a king.

This was the year of 8 billion
8 billion sets of hopes and dreams
8 billion sets of needs and wants and hungers.
Gaia tipped over, spilled tears of blood,
of flood, dry tears of drought,
melting ice, enflamed with fires, war.
8 billion thinking themselves autonomous,
each filled with billions more microbes,
bacterias, viruses, fungi, living in symbiosis,
more resilient than the vessels,
poised to evolve again.

—The International Imaginarium Group Poem for November 29th, 2022

Well, folks, that concludes the first half of tonight’s International Imaginarium for word & Verse. We are going to take a brief intermission so you can get a drink, use the facilities, take a moment to reflect on all the fantastic poetry you have heard so far, or perhaps even purchase a copy of one or more of our featured poet Eve Rifkah’s five books of poetry at our virtual vendor’s table (you’ll be so happy that you did). When we come back, I will be starting our virtual open mic.

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INTERMISSION BEGINS

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Click Here to Purchase Outcasts: the Penikese Island Leper Hospita1905-1921 by Eve Rifkah

Click Here to Purchase Dear Suzanne by Eve Rifkah

Click Here to Purchase Scar Tissue by Eve Rifkah

Click Here to Purchase Lost in Sight by Eve Rifkah

Click Here to Purchase One Kid, a Telling by Eve Rifkah

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INTERMISSION ENDS

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PAUL: Welcome back, everybody! Please find a seat…

Since Thanksgiving was just last Thursday, I am going to kick off tonight’s open mic with a rather silly Turkey Day-related piece I wrote for the November 2020 Virtual Poetorium…

Poultry Paradise

I like to believe that the afterlife for turkeys
(At least, for the American ones) is an alternate reality
Where Benjamin Franklin managed to persuade his fellow
Founding Fathers to declare them the National Bird,
So they are no longer associated with Thanksgiving,
But Independence Day instead. So there, like cows in India,
The gobbler, is considered sacred, venerated, free to wander
Through its eternal existence wherever it wishes,
Feasting on plump golden kernels of corn
From vast silver troughs which every American citizen
Has erected in their backyards to pay tribute
To the most magnificent of fowls. And when that familiar
Thursday in late November rolls around, they can rest easy,
Secretly snickering that some once arrogant Bald eagle
Will be plucked and basted and served as the traditional
Main course on holiday tables through out the USA.

—Paul Szlosek

Okay, first up on the open mic is is a loyal attendee of the International Imaginarium, as well as a past featured poet of the Virtual Poetorium, Howard Kogan…

Howard J Kogan (Photo courtesy of Dan Tappan)

HOWARD: Here is a Thanksgiving poem in reverse, be thankful you’re not Minnie or Harry!

Minnie and Harry

I should tell you about Minnie and Harry,
I was, after all, not only related, but close to them.
I’m talking about the hidden life of Minnie and Harry –
sort of a spin on the Life of Pi, but different –
in Brooklyn, on Flatbush Avenue, circa 1950s.
You’ve seen the photos in the Enquirer,
so, I won’t further indulge your tabloid instincts.
I do feel a certain loyalty to their memory,
some guilt about unrest my comments could cause.
They were one of those couples where she never
stopped complaining about him; he never said anything,
not a word; he expressed himself only in pantomime,
his What can you do? shrug was worthy of Rodin.
Yet despite this, Harry exuded such warmth everyone,
except Minnie, thought of him as, good as gold,
while she was regarded as Joseph Stalin in drag.
Until the incident, though that term hardly captures
what happened, any more than mishap captures
the sinking of the Titanic; they seemed merely
a mismatched, unfortunate couple, hardly unique.
After the incident, a new vocabulary was needed
to describe it, as though the long history of language,
how it conveyed experience to those who hadn’t had it,
had hit a dead end, even the O.E.D. was K.O.’d.
I don’t want to exaggerate, it’s not as if such a thing
had never happened before, there are archeological sites
in Peru where something similar occurred, but that was
B.C.E., and it was only after the Minnie and Harry incident
that archeologists suggested this interpretation.
Not only did the incident defy description, but it was
impossible to say if this was a single incident,
or a regular occurrence that on this occasion,
went too far, or finally, far enough.

—Howard J Kogan

PAUL: Thank you, Howard! And now please welcome to the podium,  the host of the monthly Poetry Extravaganza poetry reading series now located at the Redemption Rock Brewing Company in Worcester, Joe Fusco, Jr…

Joe Fusco Jr. and Friend

JOE: Here’s a couple of Holiday chestnuts…

Our Neighbor

Our neighbor dresses in camouflage,
Straps himself in the chestnut tree that borders our backyards,
Waits for deer to prance by.

We live in Worcester, the Big City,
Concrete and asphalt,
Squirrels, an occasional raccoon if you’re not careful with the garbage, ornery wasps but
The only deer are plastic and pull a bearded fat guy around, also plastic, two houses down
most of December.

Our neighbor smokes grass while he waits in the chestnut tree.
He used to teach welding at the vocational school.
He used to play electric guitar for a Dead-like band.

Sometimes, his nine-year-old, also in camouflage, keeps him company.
If you look through the window of their family room,
You’ll see plastic antlers hanging from the fireplace.

Our neighbor waits like Godot in the chestnut tree.
The city has lowered our property assessment three times.
We instruct the kids to only use the front door,
Remember he has a night-scope and a bong,
Never ever prance.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

Just Before Pasta

We were all gathered ‘round the table,
Our world bright with small talk and joy.
When an uncle on your side had to dwell on the past,
So, an uncle of mine sealed the future.
And like Italian Christmas tree lights,

The rest of us just sat quiet and flickered.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Thanks, Joe! And now let’s give a rousing reception to a poet who last took part in the International Imaginarium this September. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and daughter and received an MA in English Literature.  Her prose and poetry appeared in Sierra Poetry Festival, Trouvaille Review, New Pages, Coffee People Magazine, Black Cat Magazine, Bitchin’ Kitsch and others. Please welcome, Padmaja Battani!

Padmaja Battani

PADMAJA:

An Unattainable Heart

A good friend of mine at school
Shared her lunch with me
While eating I touched
Her lunch box involuntarily

When her mother learnt this
She told her daughter
The lunch box could not go
Back to her kitchen as
It had become impure
With the touch of me – an untouchable

She asked my friend to
Give (throw) away the box to me
And demanded her never allow
Me to touch any of her items

But my friend sometimes
Disobeyed her mother and made me
Touch her new ribbon to make it mine
The blue pen I adored was added
To my secret treasury with one touch
My friend confessed that
I had touched her heart as well
And made it unattainable to all others

—Padmaja Battani (originally published in Black Cat Magazine)

PAUL: Thank you, Padmaja! And now please welcome a Canadian poet now living in the U.K. who was the Imaginarium’s very first featured poet this July, John Ormsby…

John Ormsby

JOHN:

Fall Guy

Speckled gourds and pumpkin pie
Picking chestnuts where they lie
Parsnips breaking through the soil
Beetroot ready for the boil
Plump tomatoes on the vine
Pressing apples, homemade wine
Mason jars stacked row on row
Lavender tied with a bow
Farmers whistling an old tune
Underneath the Harvest Moon

—John Ormsby

Spell Check

Don’t walk too near the woods, go ’round
Especially at night
And if you must, don’t make a sound
Keep low and out of sight
Don’t whistle, sing or kick at stones
Don’t stop to climb a tree
For, if you do she’ll boil your bones
And have you for her tea
Because The Witch of Oldham Woods
Takes little ones who stray
Extinguishing the childhoods
Of those who lose their way
Who’ll never hear a mother’s words
Before their empty grave
Whose names are rarely ever heard
Whose souls no man can save
Don’t walk too near the woods, turn ‘round
For, all I say is true
And pray you’re found on hallowed ground
When she comes after you

—John Ormsby

Stone Pillow

On her rounds every night
She’s a curious sight
With her trolley and crushed velvet hat
As she shuffles in shoes
Lined with yesterday’s news
Through the town like a wayfaring cat
Where are you from, Crazy Annie?
What have you done, Crazy Annie?
Now and then she will stop
To peer into a shop
At a world where it never grows cold
Where the ladies dress up
And take tea in a cup
Framed in windows of crimson and gold
What don’t they know, Crazy Annie?
How is it so, Crazy Annie?
They shared kids, a nice home
Worked themselves to the bone
‘Til he left without saying a word
As she started to sink
So she started to drink
After that everything becomes blurred
Have you no friends, Crazy Annie?
Where does it end, Crazy Annie?
At the end of her walk
Near a derelict block
Out of sight, she beds down on the floor
And should anyone ask
It’s hot soup in the flask
Which she’d share if she only had more
Try not to cry, Crazy Annie
It’ll pass by, Dearest Annie

—John Ormsby

PAUL: Thanks so much, John! Now please welcome a poet trekking in all the way from Southport, North Carolina, please welcome Ami Offenbacher-Ferris (known to her close friends and relatives as Gypsie)…

Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

GYPSIE:

Thankful Blessings

(A response to Bartholomew Barker’s
Monday Poetry Prompt – GRATITUDE)

It’s not only this time of the year that I’m wishing
you near wanting things to be as they
used to be between you and me
Mother, Father, sisters all

It’s not only this day filled with
turkey delight, cornbread stuffing
sweet pies baked in the night when
I find how thankful I am you were in my life

Memories slip in tinged with the vintage of time
masking the trials of teenagers coming of age
in a world filled with war, heartache and rage
A world your children never knew

How hard it had been as each of your kin
passed into the night relinquished the fight
to diseases unknown while raising a house
full of girls with their silver combs

Unaware thanks to you that our world was a zoo
Filled with dangers and frights
we as kids had no clue as we
were ever protected by you

Cuba’s missiles we found could’ve leveled
our ground – Yet we continued to play
in our yard in the sun no cares
but our own thanks to you

A blissful time a child without worry a child
without crime I am thankful for each day since
you’ve both gone away to rest in the peaceful arms
of time – you still live in my heart

Happy Thanksgiving it is and
with great thanks that I give to two parents
now gone that allowed a kid to be a kid –
Thank you with love ‘til we meet again

—Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

No Christmas

Christmas forgot me this year
No tree no lights
No gifts to wrap
No presents to unwrap

Sitting beneath the stars
The night cold
The darkness endless
The void calls my name

Voice deep in my heart
A memory of childhood delight
A sense of Christmases past
A past time of jubilant excitement

Loved ones from heights above
Touch my mind
Touch memories lost
Touch heartache forever sustained

The peace of Christmas
Lays in the stars
Lays on the Earth
Lays in my heart
Christmas forgot me this year
I do not need a tree
I do not need to wrap presents
I do not need gifts to unwrap

Christmas – I will never forget You

—Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

Not A Dog

You came to me at only five weeks
old, moved my soul, changed my life.
A tiny thing with coal black fur,
bright blue eyes and the feet of a bear.

Stole the hearts of all around, crazy as w
all my barriers and helped me ground.
A tiny pup of questionable lineage,
no one wanted lest you were vicious.

Though not a mean nor aggressive
note did your little Wolf heart possess.
Not once did you bark
or even protest. Loving licks always.

You grew and you grew
and you grew some more!
So many others said to show you the door.
Lock you and leave you out I could never do.

Big as a horse and eats like one too yet
when in my time of need, your feelings are true.
You stay by my side, lay at my feet,
your love is complete.

My wolf you are to me as no other,
closer than any sister or brother.
Know that when your time on Earth
is through, I too will depart with you.

—Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

PAUL: Thank you, Gypsie! Next up, on the open mic, is an award-winning poet and writer who is best known as the long-time founder and host of The Street Beat poetry venue and also for her decades of volunteer publicity services to the Worcester County Poetry Association. Please welcome a good friend of both mine and the Poetorium in her debut appearance at the Imaginarium, Anne Marie Lucci!

ANNE MARIE: This poem was in my Facebook memories and is appropriate for the season…

Making My First Pie

(for my mother at Thanksgiving)

Linen cloth worn from mother and grandmother
is placed onto the slant of my kitchen table
flour dusted over it as I remember her doing
so many times, I’d wished I’d helped

Those hands, all knuckles, were so skilled at paring and slicing
the kind of apples I never knew to use for pies
Today as I roll the dough the gourmet pin of marble
underneath her wedding band on my right hand
I feel certain of my way,
recall even her trick of folding the rolled shell in half first
to slide it on top of the 9-inch dish filled with fruit

I add my own touch to the recipes they passed on
a sprinkle of cinnamon a bit of spice to flavor the sweetness
as the knife makes the clean slice through six times
a perfect hexagon to let the steam out

It is though the words made afterwards
that truly completes the cycle of woman teaching woman
If not for the lesson, these poems their legacy
would be lost to us in this day so filled with so much to eat
that sometimes we forget that this tradition of carrying on
is for the memory of you.

—Anne Marie Lucci (November 26, 2002)

PAUL: Thank you, Anne Marie! And now last but not least on our open mic, please welcome a very talented poet from Connecticut who has participated in the Imaginarium (as well as the Virtual Poetorium) in the past, Karen Durlach…

KAREN:

What Two Old People Did for Xmas
2021

We get up early to watch a miracle.
Watch the rocket launch of the James Webb telescope
soar past Santa’s retreating sleigh
and beyond belief.
Amazed by infrastructure on a South American shore
high tech among the sand and palms.
Marveled at dreamers dedicated to a 20-year project
feeling their elation as the rocket soars.
Talked about science and conspiracy theorists,
wonder, knowledge, what it costs, what it’s worth.

We made waffles, waffling over ingredients,
warming maple syrup, and watching batter spread
We called friends, newly awake,
friends who both just lost elder sisters
and were looking at Christmas from a new perspective.
Today the words “happy” and “merry”
Seem to have lost their meaning.

We opened presents, mostly food,
reliable food that will take only temporary space
unlike those youthful experiments, old unopened jars still moldering in the pantry
I bought him noodles. He bought me sauce. Thank you. How did you know?
I bought him mustards I will never touch. He bought me beets which he hates.

He bought us glass paperweights with magical inclusions,
a delicate flower, a pink jellyfish
and we got lost on YouTube looking for how they are made,
then got sucked into a glass-blowing demo at Corning,
“got blown away” by the artful glass of Davide Salvadore…
Some sparse snow on the ground, cat antsy for action.

I didn’t go out.
Wood stove stoking and repurposed soup with new dumplings.
A sappy movie and its stupid sequel.
Another episode of our latest library binge watch.
Another day done, gone.

—K. Durlach

Winter Fog

The 10 am fog glows.
Illuminated water droplets hang.
A high faint sun-disk presses through the vapor
for just a moment.
A thick detail-masking soup hovers,
hides bark texture and scaly fungus, knobs and peels.
In subtle varied shades
tree limbs gesture quietly, angular and arched.
Twisted twigs display their stark skeletal structures,
advance and retreat in the stillness,
all gray but the few remaining oak leaves,
their russet dulled.
My closest neighbors with my favorite twists and bends,
their dancers’ arms,
show off their grace and character
revealed against receding definition of their fellows,
blunted by the mist.
Bird movement from tree to tree,
a slim branch bounces with the take-off.

—K. Durlach (December 2021)

“Air Quotes”
or…
No Doubt, “This Is Really IT”

obviously
I have not been paying enough attention.
there’s a “time bomb ticking” in my chest
but I’ve been “living like I have forever”
I still haven’t figured out “what I want to do when I grow up”
how to “save the world”
or “found the meaning of life”

intrigued and obsesses by the little things,
I may have “missed the bigger picture”
and now it’s kind of “late in the game”
to “pull a rabbit out of my hat”

—K. Durlach (2022)

PAUL: Thanks, Karen! I am going to close out this evening’s poetry show with the November 2021 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem written with contributions from Bob Perry, Howard J Kogan, Dwayne Szlosek, and myself…

What We Are Thankful For… (Part II)

We are thankful for the turkey feast..
We are thankful for my mom and dad and my sister too..
We are thankful for our freedom..
We are thankful for those who came before us and to keep the peace..
We are thankful for those who help others to have a turkey feast..
We are thankful for our heroes to keep us from harm..
We are thankful for God to bless everyone..
We are thankful for the seasons in the sun..

We are thankful our identity hasn’t been stolen,
that the delete button still works,
that Thanksgiving has not yet been completely commercialized,
that there remains much to be thankful for: love, peace, family, friends and poetry!

We are thankful for the tragedies avoided,
the storms weathered, and the silence between thunderclaps.

We are thankful for that which is given,
also what is withheld, for the unseen light
suggested behind the storm clouds, the warm
interior waiting beyond the season’s bitter breath, grateful
for each momentary experience that this ephemeral life affords.

—The Virtual Poetorium Group Poem for November 30th, 2021

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this final edition of the International Imaginarium For Word & Verse for 2022. I want to thank our amazing featured poet Eve Rifkah and all the very talented poets who participated and contributed to not only tonight’s Imaginarium but all the ones this year. Please remember there is no Imaginarium without you guys, and you have earned my eternal gratitude for your continued support and participation. Hopefully, we will see you all at the next Imaginarium in 2023 (although can’t tell you exactly when because we will very likely be switching to either a bi-monthly or quarterly format since I can no longer find the time to continue to do it monthly. Perhaps we will be back in either February or March?) Meanwhile, I hope to see you at our first live Poetorium at the Starlite show of the new year in Southbridge on January 26th featuring the incredible poet Rebecca Hart Olander. So good night, everyone! Please stay safe and well, and have a merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

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