Friday, April 8, 2016

90 Kids; 180 Ears

Yes, they were poetry-mad; they writhed and seized with poetry; they were engorged with it, so much so that the blood spurted from their veins, soaked into their shirts, and finally drenched the street. Had they known it would happen? Had they, leaving their well-appointed houses in the morning, been especially careful to bid farewell to their parents? Did they realize that life would never again return to the measured pace of their days—the computer games, Facebook, Instogram and the like?

No, forever forward they would lurch through streets—seeking rhyme and meter, craving enjambment and anapests, lusting for trochees and spondees. Eating, sleeping, drinking—all those would be forgotten, so inflamed had their brains become, so maddened had their blood boiled. Now they lived only for poetry, and rolled in ecstasy on the floor as the verses poured over them. Their tongues hung out of their mouths, their eyes were glazed, they shrieked in horror when rational-minded scientists opened physics texts in front of them. Would they be lured? Never, so drunken they! They cavorted with the spirits of the ancients, seduced songs from stones, lured monsters into the caresses of mermaids until they grew docile and happy. They could speak in nothing but metaphor—extended or otherwise—and simile was the sunbeam turning the dew into diamonds on a crimson rose.

Their parents, horrified, demanded to know what had been done, what maleficent force had poisoned their children, the young who had been destined to become lawyers, doctors, even—gasp—accountants. But now there was nothing; their brains had become sated, rabid with poetry. No facts could intrude; differential equations were left to stroll on the beach; the muses of geology and biology were sent to wander through bamboo groves, escorted by the shrieking macaws above.

The high priestess stands before them—her long white skirt reminiscent of the toga that graced Sappho. Yes, twice-Lady arises, more luminescent that the moon that shone on Juliet, more intoxicating than the mead that spurred Beowulf, more riotous than the wine that led Homer across every crest of the Aegean.

Yeats, Shakespeare, Ella Wheeler Wilcox—no words whatever from whatever quill, be they great or lowly, exalted or piffling—they devoured them all. And never were they sated—rather, they craved more as the hours passed, as the days lengthened into weeks, as the centuries grew into eons that flung greetings to the dinosaurs dancing quadrilles among the cycads.

One imagined herself Maud Gonne, another became Beatrice seeking her Petrarch in streets where the whispers of the poet still echoed, Dark Ladies abounded and grew jealous of each, hurling murderous glares that became javelins tossed by expert minor gods towards every devil. The history books of all the world drained their statesmen, prime ministers, kings and queens down glutted cesspools; greater, nobler figures shone in the newly glistening pages. Lancelot and Guinevere were subjected to scholarly exegesis; their blood was drawn and their DNA mapped, to be of use for generations spawning into infinity. The Wife of Bath was appreciated as the spiritual forerunner of the Beat generation; Robert Herrick became the physic that doctors dosed to crotchety invalids. Babies were nursed on amontillado as Poe pulsed into their ears; they grew tired and tall—twenty feet or more daily—so nourishing and salubrious were the words.

The earth decided, on a whim, to leave its tired orbit and dance for a bit by itself a little nearer the sun—in those places subject to frost—or a bit further away. The other planets soon followed, and the pleasures of an English ball, as envisioned by Jane Austen, were enjoyed by all.

The toy Chihuahua, Federico García Lorca, sprang from lap to lap, nibbling on morsels of Dickinson, Yeats, Emerson. At last, Walt Whitman drove him into a frenzy until he could bear no more, and collapsed into a deep sleep. A sleep so deep that he snored not, but rather murmured stanzas of Leaves of Grass.

Those leaves of grass became the flesh of which sang the prophet Peter. The leaves of grass became the lawn on which Alice sat, as she contemplated plunging down the rabbit hole. The leaves of grass became the towering forests through which glided Indians tossed from Fennimore Cooper’s pen: deer, enchanted by and beyond words, lay down and instantly became venison.

Serene and glowing, the twice-lady priestess drifted through throngs of the enthralled; she lifted her arms and showers of diamond iambs and dactyls illuminated the sky. The greatest of fireworks were as guttering matches in a dank cave, hideously besotted with guano, next to the glory, the munificence that she showered upon the acolytes. She was revered venerated more than the Blessed Virgin, who grew pouty and teary, slunk into a corner, and plotted machinations of revenge against her. The twice-Lady merely smiled.

It was not an afternoon: it was that moment when the cosmic winds stir, meet each other, and dance life and creation into being. Once lulled, once seduced by the siren, the never-to-be-the-same boarded their buses, knowing that at any moment they could become chariots, spiriting past the galaxies they had blessed. 

(What else could I write when 90 teenagers came into the cafe for a poetry slam?)