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Anna Weaver – Wednesday Open Mic – Bull Moose Saloon, Alpine WY

Anna Weaver – Wednesday Open Mic – Bull Moose Saloon, Alpine WY


All right, so whenever I tell people
that I’m a poet, I think they pretty much expect me to
also say that I have cats. I have cats. And then I think they expect me to do a
cat poem. I’m not gonna do that. I did write a poem
after my cat died, though. It’s called “not another cat poem.” This is not
another cat poem and it’s not about death either, although it’s true the cat
dies last Friday. It’s also not about divorce (which may
be a surprise). No, this poem will be about something new.
So new I have not yet seen it. Oregon maybe or the Northern Lights or Mount
Lemmon in Tucson. I will find someone who’s seen those things and tease this
poem out of him. He will insist I try the blueberry pie at the Mount Lemmon cafe,
where the waitress will say, with practiced bemusement, “Do you want that
a la mode or all alone?” And I will work her into every story I tell about Tucson.
Right after I tell about the saguaro—the way they look so huggable
until you get up close. He will go on to marry someone else, that man, and I
will tell my Tucson story at his wedding and hug his new wife like a
saguaro. That’s I know I know this isn’t a divorce poem. And they will be dog
people, which rules out the cat. And I will write this poem quickly—before
any of us has a chance to die. All right this one is a little bit sentimental and
a little bit opportunistic. As I said, I’m here from North Carolina and by chance a
friend of mine who I haven’t seen in three years is driving his RV around
America, and he happened to also be here at the time, and he’s here. Jimmy and
I worked together for 17 years at a research institute in North Carolina
and he was the staff photographer. And when he retired three years ago they
asked me if I would write a poem on the occasion of his retirement. And I did and
I haven’t read it since then. So since I’m here and he’s here and his
camera is here, I thought I would read Jimmy’s poem. It’s called
“after 37 years the staff photographer retires.” Walking by his office my habit
was always to look away. Every day another giant face on his
high-definition monitor. The small movements of his stylus gently stroking
each ego one neck wrinkle at a time. Today we give him a send-off, trust him to hold
secret the memories of slouched shoulders, unflattering jackets, awkward
folds, gaping buttons. We will never know the extent of his kindness,
how he exorcised our out-takes, washing away our lesser sins with the blind eye of
his delete key, how he forgave us our open mouths and blinking eyes, spared
us the spectre of ourselves staring like animals
into the light. Now all we can do is remember his words, “No stripes,
no houndstooth.” After today, we shall go forth and tidy our hair, straighten our
backs, angle our noses just slightly to one side, and smile. So I
mentioned that I’m from North Carolina, but I actually grew up in Oklahoma and
one of the things that struck me when I moved to North Carolina was how apey North Carolinians go over the ocean. They talk about it all the time, like it’s
the only peaceful place they can think of. And as someone from a landlocked
state, I find that very confusing. And they are equally confused when I try to
explain big sky. I’ve tried to write this in several poems and this is one of the.m
It’s called “a flatlander visits the beach.” She looks like all the other
out-of-towners—hair undamaged by salt, black bathing suit,
parao the color of sunset seen through a dust cloud. If you were on the
dunes, you’d think she was gazing. Only the waves and the pelicans know this is a
staredown. As the others make ready to prostrate themselves along the beach,
she alone has come to say to the ocean, “I do not need you.” I come from big sky—bigger than you and bluer, with mystery deep enough to float all your
little explorers to an airy death. I come from the townhouse
behind the parkway, where the cars sing me to sleep in all seasons—a rhythm fit
for drowning and brackish on the tongue. You can have your short summers and the shifting dark of your shadows. I choose the still ground, where wind makes an
event of ordinary days—a wildness you cannot fathom. From the dunes you
will see her turn away and wonder why the smile—why she looks back once more
before leaving. Only the ocean will hear her say, “You are too small for me.” Now, 7
minutes is an awful lot of poetry, so I’m gonna close with one more. This one
starts with an epigraph. It’s a quote from a poem by Marge Piercy, and her poem is
called “Inquisition,” and it’s about that conversation that couples have, ill-advisedly, at the beginning sometimes when one of them decides they want to know
who’s all come before them—you know how many other people…
And Piercy’s line goes like this: “I am an old tart, and you came late, and I
have loyalties scattered over the landscape like lots I bought and pay
taxes on still.” My poem is called “lots.” I haven’t lost sight of them. Kept one
eye all this time to what lay beyond the road behind me, beyond my rising
dust. I look back not to see what became of them, but how it was I got away.
I didn’t mean always to be leaving, but mine is a love that bears the sweet fruit
only after a fire. Now here I am—a safe distance, the promise of an afterlife
with a new man. A good one. Maybe the last in this whole city, if I can turn
suddenly different. I can almost hear choir warming their voices, the deep breath of
herald trumpets ready to announce my arrival
if only I keep moving forward. But even though they no longer need me, I can’t
help myself, can’t fight the wish to say one last goodbye, to place a final kiss
on each of their salty necks. The gritty feeling climbs my legs and
arms, arches my back, fixes my shoulders to face them. “Don’t forget me,” I say. My tongue is the last to turn. It tastes
just like I remember. And if you ever happen to be in North Carolina, I do run an open mic there it’s downtown in a little art gallery.
It’s called Tongue & Groove. You can search for us online and find us. It’s the second
Sunday of every month. And I do write about all of the open mics I go to—
including this one—on a blog . It’s openmictourist.com.
Thank you.

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