Open Mic Night on Lark Street, December 2004
(Tom Nattell’s last reading)
Outside on Lark, December dark encroaches.
Each night is longer, blacker than the last,
and Spring seems years away. Inside the toasty room,
I hunker down, jammed in with other poets
who’ve come to hang their souls out on the line at open mike,
and listen to a man whose energy
helped birth this scene I’ve started scoping out,
this poetry community.
He’s got a major rep, and tons of friends
who cram the room to overflow, spill up the stairs
onto the street. It’s strictly SRO.
By that I mean to say, standing room only.
Not single room occupancy. No, light years away.
Tonight I’m AWOL from my lonely cell,
the trap I set myself to woo the muse,
the anxious isolation and the glare of empty grayness
on screen and in my head when words won’t come,
and thoughts are swallowed by the ceaseless hum
of my computer.
Here writers welcome writers. No one is judged,
kicked out for want of talent. All are poets –
the very act of writing makes it so.
Acceptance shapes the sharing of our selves.
We’re in this fight together.
Alone at home today, I thought about this room
and broke the silence barrier, made a poem
to read tonight for instant reinforcement.
The words may morph to garbage overnight,
but that’s all right – I read it anyway. My words
get rapt attention, minor laughs, some smiles.
Applause curls toward me in a wave,
breaks warmly over me. On this December night,
I bask in sunshine.
When Tom Nattell begins to read, the radiance ramps up.
His life force lights the room despite his frailty.
“People coming together sustain nourishment,”
he says with a smile between two poems.
“It’s what keeps me alive.” Taking the words to heart,
I write them in my journal to remember –
an artist’s legacy.
Julie Lomoe has published two mystery novels: Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders and Eldercide. In 2009 she was named Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library. She is currently at work on a paranormal thriller about vampires in daytime drama. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. Over the past decade, she has been a featured poet at Caffe Lena and other Capital Region venues