Sunday, September 18, 2005

Poetry by the Light of the Moon

It is late and I can’t sleep because I am still so psyched by our evening of poetry. It was a somewhat rocky start but oh what a finish!

It hadn’t rained in DC for 19 days. At about 5 PM today the clouds started to move in and the weather forecast predicted thundershowers. As I was picking up 75-year-old Mollie in Old Town to take her to the “event”, the skies opened up and it didn’t only rain, it hailed! I couldn’t believe our bad luck! But I decided to drive on into DC to the spot (in West Potomac Park on Ohio Drive) we had chosen for the poetry reading and see how the weather looked from there. As we started to cross the river, the sun came out and the rain completely stopped. It doesn’t often happen that a storm passes that quickly. Meanwhile I had had several frantic phone calls with Deborah, whose house on Capitol Hill was our backup plan.

As Mollie and I unloaded the car, which was packed to the gills with everything from card tables to paper products to baked salmon to drinks, I wondered if anyone else would show up. Slowly they began to drift in, each person bringing a surprise to contribute to dinner. There was no shortage of food, with fruit predominating in the menu. We ate and drank and watched the sun go down and the temperatures moderate. There was a nice breeze off the river, which was only 10 feet away.

At around 8:00, when darkness had descended, someone said it was time to begin the reading. As for our winter poetry gathering, the person with the closest birthday began. It was Merv, who is in his mid-sixties and normally stutters badly. He read with a clear voice and no stutter whatsoever. The next reader was Steve, who is a multi-talented renaissance man. He writes poetry, builds furniture, designs theater sets, there’s not much that Steve can’t do. His website is He brought a whole book of his poetry, each poem having such clarity and purpose. Steve’s extended family, including his wife Daryl and his 20-something-year-old daughter and her two friends, entertained us with his poems. Deborah, who earlier today was in a panic because she had nothing to read, found poems written by her grandmother Rosalie Edge, mostly about birds and wildlife. Neal read from a book of poems published by his 98-year-old mother, who in 1988 was declared the Ohio state poet. I read mostly David Budbill and modern poets. David had a very timely poem by the Romanian poet Andrei Codrescu about the situation in New Orleans, as well as a great poem about a dog. Doug read a poem he had written and some other classics. David and Martha each read a poem and then sang one together. Mollie read some old “chestnuts”, as she referred to them. Florence (90 years old) read from a book of poems published by a friend of hers. Judith, Merv’s wife, just came to listen. We went round and round the circle, passing a small flashlight to illumine the pages.

I was afraid that the moon wouldn’t be visible because of cloud cover. However, at about 10 PM, just as we were getting ready to leave, the moon came out in its full and radiant glory. I have never seen it brighter or fuller. Steve set up a good camera on a tripod to take a picture.

It was hard to part from friends this genuine. But after a round of hugs, we piled all the picnic things into our cars and said a final goodbye to poetry by the light of the moon. We didn’t dance, as Florence had originally suggested, but we surely read some good poems. Everyone is already wondering when we will do another poetry night. It left me with a heart full of love and a great feeling.


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