Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sold Out

Some years ago I wrote a short play inspired by the Homer Café. It was acted by professional actors in a cold read series on stage at the Anza Club

In Fat Jack's several regulars are having their coffee on one particularly dark and rainy night. Their routine and their futures are interrupted by a stranger, who changes their lives.

The first time I saw the Homer Café I knew its time was over. The last rays of rare sunlight shone on the graying plaster walls. The café had not yielded to all the crummy weather and all the bad food served over the years, where it had stood at Smithe and Homer. One day with a friend I ordered a coffee and a Denver sandwich there. I savored every bite and now believe every Denver sandwich should be eaten in a doomed building.

The Homer Café is the ground floor of ultra-luxury condos built by The Beasley.
The space will be the new home for those with luck and financial prudence. This is in sharp contrast to the luckless who once dined here. It was a dark corner, lit by the lights from the inside of the café , a refuge for those who came here with pocket change to enjoy the cheapest coffee in town and a place to stay warm. It was a place for people to restore some dignity in a city that had moved on without them.

The café was short on charm even on its best days and nights. Today, the remains of the Homer Café are shielded by construction scaffolding. There are large billboards claiming the suites are “Sold Out”.

A different class of citizen dwells here. Instead of more light at the end of the day we only see more shadows.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Silence Is: A poem

This is a poem I wrote about what silence is.  This was my way of contributing to poetry as art in a tribute to John Cage, called Silent Series, story number fifty-six. 

Silence is simply the beat between the words. Drum roll. beat, cymbals.

Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!

I have written other poetry, often in small reading circles. Bur one night I decided to read this poem in a small café on Commercialized Drive, where it was cool to be hip and hot enough that evening to melt plastic. I opened a window to let the air out.

A poetry lady asked me if I was a poet. I said I’d be in the wrong place if I wasn’t. Anyway, her calling me a poet sounded too much like a job.

This night, the poets mostly read about people who lived under bridges. I doubted if any of them ever had themselves and I suspect they drove there in nice cars.

In the middle of the reading some anti-war people came into the restaurant and took over the room. They said there was a scheduling problem. There was some friction: Poets versus anti-war types.  After a lot of talk, both sides pulled back from the brink. The poets would lend the microphone and amplifier to the anti-war guys. The anti-war people said: “Okay, we’ll let you read for another half-hour, but you have to read anti-war poetry.”  The poetry lady agreed to donate some money to the anti-war cause, while the anti-war people agreed to be quiet during the reading. The poets even bought the anti-war people beer and bought some anti-war t-shirts for sale. The anti-war people shared the food they brought to the rally. The moment was calm, but robbed of its irony.

I was up to read next. The poetry lady asked me: “Do you have any anti-war poems? I said: “Yes, all my poems are anti-war.”

I sat down at the microphone and read the Cage poem. The anti-war people in the audience were not amused.  I explained. “It’s war between the sexes,” I said vacating the stage.

I had overstayed my welcome.  I walked to the bus stop under a full moon. A young man in torn jeans limped on one crutch across the street, shouting at someone who owed him money. I missed my bus and began walking, enjoying the moonlight, happy to be the silence.