The July installment of the National Writers Union open mic at the Muhlenberg Public Library was hot–figuratively and literally. Due to the high humidity, the high-powered fan had to be turned on; it helped cool down the room, but it also made it hard to hear–especially in the back, where I was seated; so due to difficulty in hearing, the detailed play-by-play highlights will be more like anonymous random fragments:
Open mic’er #1 read about doing temp work at an all-male ad agency, while trying to preserve her feminist integrity. She faced an internal crisis on the day her boss asked her to fetch coffee. Her response was to refuse and start a secretarial revolution.
Another open mic’er shared “what it’s like to be a virgin”: Borrrring!
Lisa shared a story of a child, who recalled his life at the facility–how he had been caged–how he thought help would come from the “G.I. Joes.”
A woman read a piece entitled “Forced Prostitution,” which was not for the faint of heart; near the end, when she said “my insanity,” it seemed fitting in light of the topics covered in the story she told: sex trafficking at JFK, Europeans chasing after Black women, being raped by 51 men, the abduction of her three children, and a rhetorical question that made me clutch my pearls: How can my vagina end up in the government’s possession?
After a real heavy moment at an open mic, I like to snack on something. The seedless green grapes beckoned to me from the complimentary refreshments table. But two of my personal religious rules prevented me from partaking: 1) Thou shall not eat grapes of thine own accord, but only from a fair maiden’s lovely hand that dangleth them before thy mouth. 2) Thou shall always remember Jive Poetic’s poem and keep it holy. (“Grapes! Green! No seeds!)
Ansel, a top-notch illustrator who usually shows his work to the audience, shared a memory this time around; he recounted what it was like going under the knife. “Oh well, life was fun,” is the pre-op thought he had before the anaesthesia put him to sleep; he wondered if he would float above the operating room after the surgeon killed him; he wondered if it would be the last time seeing his lovely sister Mary.
Cecil did a freestyle rap about the “Boogie Down Bronx.” A young lady performed an original song on acoustic guitar. Then came Gerlad Harris with some over-biting sarcasm; he called for “a new salute for the fourth,” the building of a colossal statue of President Trump–bigger than the Statue of Liberty–to be placed in New York Harbor, so it can serve as a “deterrent” because “we have had enough of the tired and the poor.” And if there were any poor souls, who traveled all the way from Far Rockaway to the open mic, they were more than able to commiserate with another one of Mr. Harris’ poems, which explained: “Two trains and a bus–that’s why it’s called Far Rockaway.”
As the host Alex moved down the open mic list, the show’s hard stop end time became an elephant in the room: with six names remaining and only 20 minutes left, it served as a reminder to come earlier and sign up early. The host, Alex, did a commendable job of managing time, but the NWU open mic draws a crowd and the list fills up fast, so there may be times when there isn’t anymore time for the last two people who signed up.
But if you get there late, it won’t hurt to just listen. Despite the roar of the fan, I heard one poet rhyme about “Cool Kid the Goat,” and his run-in with Wolfie. When done reading a page, she flicked it with flair to the ground and moved on to the next. Her words and style conjured up thoughts of Gwendolyn Brooks–in a tale that flourished with wise words at the end: “Never let anyone turn your plans around!”
I looked around at the end and saw the faces of open mic’ers who read early, but stayed late to listen to others. That’s always a nice thing to see: the one who went first is still there to hear whoever goes last. And if you’re curious to know when I went…
I went second. I did two poems. But before starting, I apologized for my very low-cut V-neck t-shirt: I’m sorry. Normally, I don’t show this much cleavage.