Thursday, July 22, 2010

Open Mike at Neutral Ground Coffeehouse

The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse is a bit off the beaten track but not terribly so.  It has an interesting history and if those battered walls could tell stories, I'm sure they would all be good yarns.  Prices are extraordinarily reasonable and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.  I watched two guys play chess for an hour.

We didn't go to the Neutral Ground to watch a chess match, however.  We went to an open mike poetry reading that is held every Wednesday between 8:00 to 9:00 PM.  An interesting bunch of gentlemen and one lady read from their own works and also from the classics.  By classics I mean Guillaume Appollinaire and Allen Ginsburg.  An on-the-spot decision was made to read Howl in round robin fashion in the near future.  That will be something worth hearing.  While I doubt anyone will be starving, hysterical or naked it should be a wooly recitation nonetheless.  There was some loose talk about waiting for Hallowe'en.  When a date is announced, I'll post it here if I'm privy.

As mentioned earlier this month, I don't consider myself a poet.  Despite that, I was inspired to write a little something that I may read next week.  It starts off with a bang of flourishes and then peters out into rather dry prose.  I think it has enough layers of meaning to have a bit of appeal, though I doubt it will ever be accepted for publication in Field and Stream.  What do you think?

The American Eel by Whalehead King.  July 21, 2010.

In a sea full of small fry and sharks, is there room for an eel and its shocks?  In the shade of hummocks, where blue crabs quietly clack through the brine, eels ply the wiggle room between roots and reeds that tangle the mangled shore.  Tide and time, by and by, fill the voids with eddies of slurry.  The flow pushes in, the ebb pulls away, the eels scuff their sandpaper skins on empty oysters and mussels and bamboo.
The American eel, fluid as a rope in a river, lacks the sparked sting and menace of its African cousin.  The American eel, a tough thing of stringy meat and more bones than a chicken or menhaden, as graceful as an ibis, less common than a tern, as quick as a snake and doubly as ugly, a startling, slippery, sinewy thing churned out of the kind of dreams that make children cry and women cringe, slides where civilized angels don’t bother to tread.
The squid, the shrimp, the crawfish, the jellyfish, the anchovy, the sardine, the sand shark and nurse shark, the dog shark, the catfish, the trash fish, the webbed feet of water birds that plod through the muck, the American eel slides between them, caresses them, and sometimes takes a bite.  A dark flash in shadow, seldom clearly seen and rarely caught without net or fork, as elusive as inspiration, the American eel is artful master of the shallow depths that make up its murky domain.

The hoi polloi covet a passel of eels for the pot.  They wrestle with pliers to strip the skin off the body.  They hack at the head.  They chop chunks off the bloody cylinder that grew its original shape for stealth and surprise rather than stew.  The thrashing antics of a struggling eel in fresh air and sunshine lend a dull-witted man a superior sense.  Starred chefs procure a few of the slippery devils for well paying clientele with palettes attuned to the exotic or obscure.  By divine design, more suited to escape than suffer as prey, a special hell awaits the eel that gets caught.  Craved as game in backswamp kitchens and in epicurean restaurants, the American eel is seldom enjoyed at middle class tables. 

Is it poetry?  Well, I'm not the one to judge that.  I only write this stuff.

After the reading, a duo from Santa Cruz, CA performed an acoustic set.  Nice guys.  They wore ties.  They were very good, especially since they said this was their first acoustic set.  They usually play electro-pop.  

In case you want to study up for the Howl-a-thon...


Anita said...

I think you should read it. It held my attention and I liked it. When I got to the fourth stanza, however, I was immediately so distracted by the "the" in front of "hoi polloi" that I couldn't really judge if the last paragraph was a diminishment or not. Anyway, that's for you to say.

Whalehead King said...

I can't recall ever seeing it without an article in front of it, but you seem to be more of a stickler about things than I am. I'll look into it. Thanks for the input.

And now you see why I end up with the poets. I think of these as paragraphs rather than stanzas but no one else does.

Much obliged.


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