Thom Francis

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5

I like to be on time, particularly for open mics where I plan to read, so that I can hear the other poets on the sign-up sheet. Actually Don & I were on time in Saratoga, just that Hattie’s Chicken Shack was not on time with our dinners. So we got next door to Lena’s as the first featured poet was reading, & we missed the first chunk of open mic poets — sorry.

Lynn Ciesielski has a new book out from FootHills Publishing, I Speak in Tongues & included a number of poems from the chapbook, as well as others not in the book. “How to Let Go of a Grown Child” is a Mom’s list, tender & funny. Equally tender, but sad was a poem about an octogenarian former professor, “Chaos Theory.” In “Let the Whistle Blow” the poet thought of her ashes being tossed on the train tracks to be scattered far & wide. Other poems were set in travel locations, such as the ironic feminist come-uppance of “Practicing Spanish at a Seaside Bar in Cancun,” or the less frantic “Two Legs Toward Liverpool.” She ended with the sexy & humorous love poem to her husband (dutifully tonight videoing her reading from his phone), “Pizza Again.”

AlbanyPoets el presidente Thom Francis was the night’s other featured poet, surrounded by his adoring entourage. He said he was reading “mostly new” poems, a relative term to some of us who have heard some of these recent poems at open mics. He began with “At this Moment,” then on to the portrait of sad characters at the “Bar.” The poem “Stuck,” about Time, was written at work (haven’t we all), while “Run” examined the power of leaders, cult or otherwise. A particular favorite of mine is “Easter Visit” about a visit to his grandfather in the hospital. The one older poem was “Hero,” an ironic portrait of his father as an anti-role model. He said he has been working on “Walk” for 8 or 9 months, a sad portrait of a friend. He ended with another new favorite, a love poem to his insulin pump, “Machine.” It certainly was, as Thom described it, “the most personal reading I have ever done.”  Good too.

After the break Carol Graser read “Out of Crackers” from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems. Then on to the rest of the open mic.

W.D. Clarke was back with another of his rhymed ballads of black humor, the story of a farting corpse, “Saint Shorty.” Barbara Garro‘s poem “Blessing Bridges” was positive & up-lifting & “Wings” referenced the Sufi mystic poet Rumi. Don Levy dedicated his poem, “The Queen,” to Thom Francis, then went on to explain “How I Know My Muse is a Gay Man,” characteristic Don Levy gay & pop culture humor. I followed with 2 recent poems, the scary “This is Not Trick or Treat” & the true story of a failed Saratoga Springs love affair, “Adirondack Life.”

Tess Lecuyer, who will be one of January’s featured poets (with Kingston/Albany poet Cheryl A. Rice) read a list of a month’s worth of specific prompts for poems, “Prompt Dates.” Michael, who has read here in the past, but not recently, was back with 2 untitled poems, one remembering his father, the other perhaps about the force of desire, like walking on lava. Andrew‘s poem was a philosophical, modern dialogue appropriately titled “Said Socrates,” while his 2nd poem was shorter, but with a longer title.

The last poet up, Leslie Nestor, was a (poetry) virgin (!) but you’d never know it from her poems, the wonderfully sexy “This Shirt” & the more involved “To Our Friend Who is in Pain…” advice to a friend suffering through the pain of a lost love.

Accomplished poets, dabblers, & virgins, that’s what a poetry open mic is all about. The open mic at historic Caffè Lena is held on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 pm start, only $5.00, bring a couple poems to read.