Prologue: Two months ago, when “writersplace.net”, our authors web site began looking for the three most popular, most widely followed commercially unpublished poets, Barbara’s name came up and the three were invited to a poetry competition in Chicago.
Poetry with permission of Elizabeth J. Russo
A Three Day Lifetime:
Saturday, June 19, 2009
Day Two: Poetry
The convention hall of the Allerton hotel moderately crowded, “Welcome, ladies and gentleman,” Standing upon the stage, the moderator said, “this competition; our second annual internet poetry competition is; first, to hear the thoughts and writings of all of our wonderful, previously commercially unpublished poets, then to offer the prize of publishing, in a hard back edition, the writings of the winner of this year’s competition, along with the guaranteed placement in at least one major book marketing chain.”
After searching the large room for a few minutes we found the “TheWritersPlace.com” representative, who’s name I cannot remember, along with the other two semi-contestants, one male and one female, who’s names I also cannot remember.
Feeling proud as hell, but receiving fishy eyed stares when Barbara said, “I’d like you to meet my husband, Mitchell.”
Screw ‘em if they think I’m her father!
After shaking hands around, wishing the other contestants, as they did Barbara, a half-hearted, “Good luck.” as the room was set for “stadium seating”, we drifted away to find chairs among total strangers.
“The rules are simple.” The moderator went on, “Names will be called in no particular order, but rather at random. When called, you are to come forward,” motioning to the microphone, “and recite up to three of your writings. Total time, though, is not to exceed seven minutes, and you will be timed!”
Also, once you recite, we’d like you stay put,” motioning toward the audience, “because we do not want the last of you speaking to an empty hall, because it just isn't fair.
We’ll have a number of breaks throughout the day and’ll have an hour for lunch. We’ll begin tomorrow morning at eight-thirty to hear whomever hadn’t recited today.
There will be a panel of three judges, including myself that are not affiliated with any of the participating Web sites, and you will be judged not only for the words written, but also the presentation of those words.
The winner will be announced tomorrow and we should have all of you heading back to your homes by no later than noon.
One other thing: the winner must be present or the award will be given the runner-up.”
Sitting for hours, clapping weakly for the endless jumble of words, the meaning in many... most cases of which I could not even imagine. Clapping a bit harder for what was comical, or risqué or what was presented with a bit of theatrical technique. Then there was all that transcendental crap that I don’t think even the author knew what the hell he or she was talking about, and every now and then I would receive a gentle nudge when I dozed off and my head dropped onto my chest.
But my thoughts, actually, during these seemingly unending, boring hours were constantly of Barbara and of me and, why was she here with me?
Why me, a man that’s old enough to be her father and, having a daughter nearing fifty, I actually am old enough to be her father.
Why would two seemingly intelligent people allow themselves to be placed in a situation that – we both knew – will only end in total heartbreak?
If Barbara and her husband shared even a thread of commonality: she an interest, even a passing interest in fishing, he an interest, even a passing interest in her writing, if Barbara and her husband occasionally talked to each other, really talked to each other, and if he were a bit less controlling, would she even be here with me today?
Was the love I had for my wife real? Or is the love I have for Helen real?
Did I ever really love my wife?
Do I really love Helen?
Yet I know, when the time is right, I will marry Helen because, at my age I need someone in my life and, at my age, what are the odds of finding someone that I love – maybe – that really loves me as I know Helen loves me?
How do I know that I would ever find one that loves me that I love, except...
I do know my feelings for Barbara are real!
I do know that I love Barbara and I do know she loves me and yet, due to her marriage – and she says that Hank is really a good man – and...
Barbara has an adult sister with Down's Syndrome, and she and her mother, becoming too frail to help care for her daughter, are both living in Barbara and Hank’s very modest home in Levitt Town, New York, the care of both, her mother and sister falling on...
Due to Barbara’s, in my opinion, overwhelming family responsibilities along with the physical distance, to say nothing of our, in my opinion, overwhelming age difference, I know our love can never be more than here, more than now.
I’m an odd duck for a man.
I miss being married.
I miss the warmth of a sleeping woman alongside me.
I do not like coming home to an empty house.
God knows what I would do without, at least, my best friend, my dog to come home to.
I love the emotion of “Chick Flicks” even if, and maybe especially because, occasionally, they cause me to cry.
If I were to say, “Barbara come with me!”
As we all must do what our conscience dictates, she would not, nor would I expect or want Barbara to leave her sister and mother nor her other moral responsibilities anymore than Helen, in clear conscience, could throw the drunk out.
Let me say that, due to Barbara’s reluctance to let me see a current picture of herself, I had the feeling that it was due to the fact that she was... Yes, I actually pictured Barbara as obese and when I saw her at the airport yesterday – was it only yesterday – Looking at my watch: 1:53. Not even a day. Further thinking, When I saw her at the airport I though she was attractive, pretty in fact, now... Looking to my right, looking at Barbara in profile...
Sensing my eyes on her, turning her head, “What?” she whispered.
Crooking my forefinger, she brought her ear to my mouth... When I saw her at the airport yesterday, I thought she was attractive, pretty in fact, now...
Whispering in Barbara’s ear, “I think you’re beautiful!”
Late afternoon, about thirty-five minutes from calling it for the day...
“Oh, God!” she gasped.
Standing to let her pass, “Barbara, you’re beautiful,” I whispered, kissing her cheek. “Go on, baby. You’ll do great!”
Indeed looking beautiful dressed in a youthfully designed, knee length, light tan linen suite, brown blouse and brown and white, two inch heeled shoes, taking my seat again, I watched as she crossed the room to walk the three steps onto the stage.
Nervously attempting to smile, “Good afternoon,” nodding to the audience of her peers.
Now looking at the three judges, “I want to thank you for this opportunity.”
Closing her eyes, collecting herself a moment:
“Can You Hear Me, God?”
Opening her eyes, looking straight forward:
“Good morning, can you hear me, God?
I know you are very busy,
but I was so cold last night and I
want to know if you could send
an angel down to bring me an extra
The modulation of her voice low at first, but now gaining confidence...
“It’s not just for me, I have this
little friend who crawls under my
cover sometimes and he
is so cold too.
I call him Charlie, but
you already knew that
And God, if you know anyone that needs
a little boy, and I’m a good little boy,
please send them to me. I’ve been
waiting so long for a mommy and
Looking about, I see that most of the audience are sitting a bit straighter in their seats watching, and listening to my Barbara
“I wish that I had a real home and a
real family that would love me. I
promise to always be a good boy
and I’ll eat whatever food they give
me and keep my room clean and
take baths when I have to.”
Watching closely, I notice that Barbara’s eyes remain steadily looking outward, towards the audience.
“And God, if you send me a mommy
and a daddy, can you make sure
that they will love Charlie, too? He
is very small, even for a mouse, and
he doesn't eat very much,
but you already knew that.
Thank you, God. I mean, Amen.”
Great! I thought as...
As though afraid clapping for another contestant might diminish audience appreciation for the recital of their own poetry, now came polite clapping, however...
Great! I thought as, clapping loudly, “Yea, Barb!”
Waiting a few seconds for everything to settle down:
“As both poems are on the longer side,” Barbara said, “I’ll only recite two today.”
Closing her eyes once again... now opening her eyes...
Barbara looked at me, at only me...
“I crawled into an untidy bed,
curled my bare body to his
and lay still
until his breath was
at my back,”
She looked into me...
“a soft tongue cooling
the sunburned skin
on my neck,
my round bottom pushing
closer and closer into the curve
of his body.”
Barbara's eyes saw to my soul, and my tears came...
“Spread fingers walked
the length of me,
chilled skin rising in ovation.”
Our eyes unwavering, her tears coming, hesitating, suppressing a sob...
“His warm hand skimmed
over the curve of my hip
to a waiting well–his fingers
tickled the surface and dipped
long into the warm waters
and he spoke close to my ear
words he had never spoken,
Halting a moment to bring her voice and emotion under control.
said only between lovers,
and turned my body to his.”
Those about now looking from her to me: sensing our love, feeling the sadness...
“ “Shhh, not a word”, he said,
and took a cool sip
the depths of the well
all thirst was quenched.”
Our eyes locked, unashamed, her tears, my tears, our tears ran.
Silence...The room silent.
Wanting my Barbara not to stand alone, not to stand alone in silence, rising, crossing the room, going onto the stage, bringing her hand to my lips I kissed it, then...
The chubby, middle-aged woman and old man kissed the kiss of lovers.
No longer silent...
Applause filling the room, the room was no longer silent.
©May 24, 2010 / Mark M Lichterman