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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.

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 enamored 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 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 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.

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.

Exhale. I will never again have the agony of anticipating my First Poetry Reading.




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Comments

The following comments are for "Poetry Reading, Take One."
by cybele

This is lovely
Cybele, thank you for sharing your first poetry reading. I felt as though I was there with you. Congrats on the honor of being asked to read your works, and positive thoughts toward your work being published.

I too am nervous when speaking in public, the homemade kaluha sounds yummy and on spot.

best,
Mollie in Bonnets

( Posted by: Bonnets [Member] On: January 15, 2004 )

Aww
Hey, I'd been kidding about getting drunk. ;)

This was wonderful. I'll bet it's something you'll never, ever forget. And Congratulations (!!!) on your poem getting into Scribble! And City Plows, to boot!

Very sweet. Sounds like you did fine. Well done.

( Posted by: Elphaba [Member] On: January 15, 2004 )

thanks for sharing
Hi cybele. Thanks for taking us on the rollercoaster ride from it's anticipatory beginning to the poeticly logical conclusion.

But did you bow? ;)

respects
smithy

( Posted by: smithy [Member] On: January 16, 2004 )

You Guys!
How great are you... thank you so much for your support...Bob, it is delightful to have you describe my poetry as exquisite and passionate. Pen, you were absolutely right about exuding pride and confidence. Pamela said, "Are you sure you want to give this away? It's so good." And I reminded her that I can give it all away, and it's still mine, kind of like love. Claire, Smithy, thank you for the last minute goodluck wishes, and for sincerely wanting to hear the results. It means a great deal to me to have a community that is actively interested in my work and happy for my achievements. Elphaba, you only seconded Pen's suggestion that I have a stiff one before going on...and honestly, it was only the tiniest of tipples. Mollie, thank you so much for your comment...and toasted cheese is now on my list of submission sites.

And...I did bow. A tiny little one, hands folded together at my breast.

Thank you all.

xox
cybele

( Posted by: cybele [Member] On: January 16, 2004 )





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