In case anyone doesn’t know already, Thursday 17 September 2009 marked my 43rd birthday. This month, I’ve found myself with many memorable happenings to write about and precious little time to write about them. Throw in GoDaddy e-mail mess-ups, an endless array of Facebook glitches, significant time spent seeking paid employment and, well… here I am six days after the fact to tell you about one of the highlights of not only my birthday week, but also my lifetime. It happened at Tuesday the 15th’s Lix and Kix poetry event. Setting aside the fact that it was the week of Geri’s and my birthdays, this Lix seems guaranteed to have been a very special occasion, featuring great music (Leah Lou), two excellent featured poets (Russ Vidrick of Cleveland and the David Smith of Los Angeles) and our biggest open mic turnout yet (30-some people signed up to read). Folks came all the way from Ashtabula, Mansfield, Columbus, Toledo, and Detroit to share in the festivities — and even though we brought extra seats with us, a lot of folks ended up standing or (like me) sitting on the floor for much of the time. Christina Brooks gave me a very cool bilingual collection of Neruda’s poetry. David Smith gave me a copy of his excellent new book White Time (published by OffBeatPulp). And Michael Schurch of the Ohio Poetry Association presented me with an OPA shirt and a membership in that fine organization.
There was a unique energy in the room that night — which I soon discovered was in part due to a secret that most of the people in attendance had been keeping from me. I half expected folks to “surprise” me with something predictable like a card, a cake or a free cappuccino. But I was utterly surprised and thrilled (and even a bit humbled) to find myself presented with something beyond extraordinary. My co-host (partner in rhyme) Dianne Borsenik had solicited lines for a collaborative birthday poem from over a hundred of my friends and acquaintances from across the country and overseas — lines which she’d then assembled into a finished work and elegantly framed for display. I have to admit receiving the poem made my eyes a bit misty. The macho part of me would like to blame incense smoke — but I won’t attempt to argue with the video evidence our friend Ken Kitt was on hand to happily gather.
Any words I can offer in response to such a wonderous happening seem inadequate. So I will keep it as simple as I can and say — to all who were a part of my birthday in any way, shape or form — THANK YOU!
If you haven’t seen it yet, Ken was kind enough to post his footage of Dianne reading of the poem that night on Facebook (the clip is just a little too long for You Tube’s 10 minute time limit). Click here to watch it. And below, finally, is the text of that now somewhat famous, nearly epic collaborative poem, followed by a list of the contributors. Thank you again — from my toenails, hair follicles, Adam’s apple, heart and bones.
photo by Michael Schurch of the Ohio Poetry Association
Write On, John Burroughs, Right On!
The day dawns on Lake Erie full of dreams of fish and love
It begins with a kiss
I fell asleep in the arms of rhyme
Yellow mud squishing between my toes
The I in my sky is crying because I can’t be with you today
Arms upraised, she is mullioned by the rain
She wore her illness like a crown of babies’ breath.
You can’t expect your Muse to grow up
But she did, and so I am
Samson, shorn, sheared and sapped of strength
It was like a recipe she always forgot, except
for the last line: let rise in a cool, dark place
Raving reckoning fudge disco, horrid terrorism health rice,
I ain’t got nothing in the brain pan for a birthday man
Anything means everything, though hearing you say that
sounds unusually strange, almost nostalgic
If you’re going to say something, you have to say everything
A bird trills the dawn of new life
The cake collects its candles
like your whiskey shepherds shadows
May everyday of your life be a rebirth
and a celebration of new things learned
Open eye and insert existence, a little sting, then dilation,
then just how big is that fire in the breast pocket after all,
as you follow your eyes to the conflagration
What is truly amazing is what does not kill us
Sometimes you ask yourself, where do poets come from?
Oh for the solace of the pen, to be wrapped in computer keys,
a small darkness, a fold of night, a smudge of ink on his hand, his cheek.
There is an ownership at the mic where giving and taking
twist into shades of blue light; a genesis, a morphosis, an origami
that can only be seen through the emcee’s eye
You have brought your late night poetry to this old
neighborhood, quietly sitting upon a midnight park bench,
slowly unwrapping the syllables of the Rapture.
You rattle the bars and womens’ hearts
with your rocketing rhyme and poetic charm
Carry dollops of cream and grains of sugar in your bandanna
Channels beat rhythms in just time; burrow language into rhyme
Somewhere between the twink of nothing
and the disquiet of the rest your rainbow pillar of light
breaks through the steel weight of forgot
and illumes long-silenced spill of voices past
Popup popcorn poptart popfly popsicle junkmail
Splinters of fractal emotions that
The personification of the spoken word, of the speech
and intent with which it is heard with verse and voice,
he loudly hails, of the poet’s life and all its travails
A gentle soul, Buddhist, pacifist, always working for a greater good
The Crisis so benign, our poetic savior
Soulful of Haiku ca choo and Déjà vu do
Izzat Jesus on the front pew? Mistaken identity? Didn’t call
himself the president or even a Kennedy. Ridiculous, silly,
absurd, inane? Said he was the Son of God and Jesus Crisis
became. So this is proof of what Cavana alleges
many times great things come in bad boy packages.
John Burroughs, John burrows digging the cosmic joke. Ka-Pow!
Throw your straight shots hot as rotgut whiskey, burn holes wholly
through our fatted careful skins
Words cut quick and syncopate
like a bebop drummer working on a ride cymbal
They wave in public blood they’ve splashed in private
on the page; they pace and pose, they spew and spit,
they swagger, sweat, and swear
With fiery syntax, he implodes, explodes and then reloads.
W/mouth full of words
all those nasty nouns & verbs echo
in the bowl of bodily dysfunction
A soul patched, or should we say hatched? John is
a soul replete with joy ascending on nakedness, skin born again
John Burroughs is so sexy, Bette Davis sings I have Burroughs eyes
I would follow the undulating curl of his hair
to the end of the earth; he completes me
The only readout redoubtable renowned knowable
famous as an amos cookie the one and only Jesus Crisis
is also one John Burroughs hippy bee
Playwright, Taoist, musician, doesn’t watch TV, John speaks
to me, lives poetry, reading and photography, John speaks to me…
Johnny not only Burroughs but he also furrows busy across
the lane of his poetry yarrow and he’s gonna lick the rhyme-y juice
and kick the dancing lines to a pretty piece
till we all get the tune in our marrow!
His pen casts lines in Elyrial time,
words his weapons to unravel unconventional rhyme,
imprisoned maverick, Buddho-Taoist muse
levy’s apprentice with Cleveland Ave. views.
A scatological approach is hard to categorize,
and you, sir, rank among the masters.
Crouching poet, hidden camera
When I saw a video of him lipsyncing Aerosmith,
my respect for his talents reached a whole new stratum!
These opalescent memories, like dangling pearls
Johnny burroughs ate rush limbaugh in empathetic 3 d
And led me through the kaleidoscope night
Another rotation as you head to your final destination
Oh the rejectionists and their anadiplosis, it’s all
anacoluthon to Godzilla, moving in more simultaneous directions
than Savion Glover’s dreds.
People clamber aboard the boat and start turning the wheel
this way and that
Sleeping gods languish in slumber oblivious
to the greatness that belies their pained existence
Aftershave of men making machines
The pedestrian life speaks continents to sanity
And he will go down lickin’ and kickin’
This line that I draw is not just sex, not just human rights,
it’s the right for anyone to say yes, or no
May the hummingbird and the rhinoceros be alive in your spirit
and your good fortune extend like a Faulknerian phrase that seeks
to transcend its sentence with many quixotic, hypnotic, erotic
digressions that make you forget where you’re going, only knowing
the journey is its own perpetual maybe, music and morning
May your words fly with the stars,
guided by the moon, blazing earthly trails
Once, standing like an empty shrine against
the outline of a perfect city, he became an unnamed thing
Who struck thunder and blew terror back
in the nick and flick of his tongue
Swiftly, fell the untamed dancers, charmed of stone and block
That was the year the days grew so hot and long, even the dead
sweated in their underground homes, and their eternal souls slunk
to the ground, seeking the shadows of the tallest trees.
Nobody is winning, there is only killing now
Taser nation over all with liberty and justice revocable
A dream can run but it can’t hide
you have to chase it, chase and shake the tambourine
There is a longing to reconnect with simpler times long past, but
Amish medical texts provide no cure for chimpanzee attacks.
The mouse nibbles in the tie
The cat kisses the rabbi leaning against time
& wonders how many lives?
And there he was standing in the forest, birds a chirpin’,
wearing nothing but a loin cloth
And the sweet high mesa air burrows burros’ moist
nostrils with coquetry of poetry
And there is the law of cock crow, the call of birds that feeds us
And the waterlilies bloomed and bloomed, tempting all manner
of painters, photographers, and poets to park on the bridge
Spirits dancing merrily unseen haunt the houses but not the dreams
I bend in prayer to the force of hurricanes,
your name written in the eye
I wandered to the water for the sound,
but its sight was the delight, I found!
Open hearted big river flowing south, flowing south
Undulating currents of time eroding the coast of our innocence
In Niskayuna the dead trillium dissolve
under dripping wild dogwood
You see your rippling self in the face of water
Drink in, poet, and quill a deep draught from the well
Better to have loved a billion bees then be stung by love
Well I’ve met you twice, and both were a thrill
you’re just one year older, still not over the hill
Sorry the line was late, this poem is great,
happy birthday mate, jesus crisis takes the cake!
I leave you a birthday message, ’cause if I didn’t you might get mad
and sulk like you did when you were little, with your fat legs and
killer smile, when your mother called you pookie bear and
your sister finally started liking you and your father was still
running around with dancing shoes and jazz albums…
A birthday is a lie, an excuse to wear your candy shirt, a pickle
on a plate, a drive to Toddlerville to ride the little train that’s all
you’ve wanted to do for years you act like such a grown-up get over it
Increasing marks of wisdom, sharing your insight and talent
doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your perfect birthday!
Too soon, father John, your hair will turn quite gray,
but your voice and your fame, will still be the same
no matter what the others may say!
Eat your birthday cake, made of “succulent Nebraska”!
Today is the first day of the rest of your wonderful life
The life of the repartee!!
Candles crowd the cake dance floor,
flame-heads bob in celebration.
September calling, leaves changing color, falling,
and I love it all
From graybar jailcell, circling
the square measuring time, the dove of poetry
flies into infinite rhyme
Let’s you and me be burroughs together
sd big man patchen to the boy in the corner we’ll
end run this joint we’ll make it new we’ll go round
the corner and don’t forget yr porkpie hat
Adventure in fine tremolo, our magical underground,
blending like sapphire in stars
A frostbit moon makes eyes on yonder fields,
promising to reach its sands within the decade,
starting once and for all the Earth age.
meteors singe Lake Erie’s
pickled summer breath
You sway to my side smelling sweet, I inhale
air in waves floating in, away from dark energy
I’m) glad, you)
Miles of smiles and long lines ahead…
I see the ignu in you… the ignu smiles true
Peeking around memory’s hazy corner,
drawn by the sweet aroma of wonder
Goateed Elyrian poet floats like a blue Chagall
above the small town of poetry, his black tux
flung open, swallow tails billowing.
[Contributors: Larry Smith, Ra Washington, Lisa Vicious, Geoffrey A. Landis, Joy Leftow, Bonné de Blas, Judith Mansour, the Minister of the Church of Crisis, Zach Miller, Carla Dodd, Nin Andrews, Kathy Ireland Smith, Susan Amethyst, Jack McGuane, Gillena Cox, Joshua Gage, Susan Ritter-Norris, Ben Gulyas, Michael Salinger, Mike Finley, Jana Russ, Mark Hersman, Peter Leon, Gina Tabasso, Dimonique Boyd, Claire McMahon, Raw Purr, Vertigo Xi’an Xavier, Alex Bevan, William B. Burkholder, Shaindel Beers, Teleri Schakel, Jen Pezzo, Cavana Faithwalker, dan smith, Dan Lear, James Owen Shepard, Marcus Bales, J.E. Stanley, Kevin Eberhardt, Marlana-Patrice Hamer, Dustin Brookshire, Ber-Henda Williams, Charles Hice, Megan Collins, Nabina Das, Christina Brooks, Keisha Davenport, Jean Brandt, Larry Collins, Edward Nudelman, Scott Wannberg, Heather Ann Schmidt, DubbleX, Terry Provost, Michael “Doc” Dreyfuss, Vince Robinson, Michael Dylan Welch, Alynn Mahle, Alan Summers, Kris Saknussemm, Clarissa Jakobsons, the David Smith, Phil Metres, Theresa Göttl, Bree, Steven B. Smith, Dianne Borsenik, Jeff Kosiba, Alex Gildzen, S.A. Griffin, Patty Morris, Marc Steven Mannheimer, Elise Geither, Beverly Zeimer, Tomás Ó Cárthaigh, Lorian Hemingway, Jill Riga, Suzanne DeGaetano, Carlton Smith III, Lyn Lifshin, J.P. Dancing Bear, Debbie Goings, Tyler Swegheimer, Lisa “MissUndastood” Moore, Leah Lou, Puma Perl, Jennifer Bosveld, Ken Kitt, Kim Schleeper, Michael Schurch, James Borsenik, Irene Brodsky, Kimberley Diamond Bones, Susan Walker, Timothy House, Ray McNiece, George Wallace, mark s. kuhar, Zachary Moll, Sammy Greenspan, Kisha Nicole Foster, Kent Brown, Will Northerner, Christina Brooks, Steve North and Dorianne Laux. Assembled and edited by Dianne Borsenik.]
More to come about Lix and Kix and the rest of my very groovy week, including the actual day of my birthday….
Peace, love and poetry,