The first time

tableflowersbook

 

Tiffany’s Wine Bar. The Colony. Toledo, Ohio. Circa 1977. An open mic poetry reading. My first.

I had only ever read in churches before. This is an entirely different scene.

I’m eighteen, surrounded by strangers. Adults with big hair, tie dye, and bell bottoms, all smiling, drinking wine on a sunny back patio, enjoying, listening intently to each poet. I’m sixth.

I get through my first two pieces, fine, but was there for my third, where I describe the power of my teen longings being recognized, seen, the final lines barely hinting that it was by another boy.

I finish, applause. Did they hear me, I wonder? Get my ‘gist?’

And there I stood for nearly two minutes/hours alone when this guy I spotted earlier, Bob, opens his arms and says, “Come here, you big fairy.” His full embrace imprinted forever.

Nearly forty years later, I find myself here opening a poetry bookshop in Toronto at Rick’s Cafe in Kensington Market. I say ‘I,’ but there are so many lifelong loving faces that fill the vision of this dream. My heart is full, my eyes burst. Such times. Truly a cause for celebration.

Poets. Lovers. Readers. Welcome to knife | fork | book .

Jeff KIRBY

Illustration: Tallaulah Pomeroy.  Book: HELEN GURI Here Come the Waterworks (BookThug, 2015). Photos: KIRBY
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