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Poetry Reading

John McAuley

Making this ominous note among an uneasy presence of chairs,
“Moon-ruled, we live under her perfect clarity. It must be a full moon tonight.”
Then I winced. The gut always knows first, but it was worse––
an earnest intrusion of what would come:
Years without a reading, no publishing, not much writing
as if the word really had gone out from Parnassus.

                                       Order of the Day

This fuzz ball is going to be flicked right off the mountain.

Some readers will even think he is dead or the next thing to it.
No one will want to talk to him nor he to them.
He’s going to get so tired of poetry that he’ll never get back up.
The biggest effort he’ll make is stacking his poetry collection and disappointment
in his clothes closet.
He’ll try to sell most of the books but get rebuffed.
He’ll picture himself in many disguises, yet none will fit right.

By the end of the reading, pale and shaken, I can only murmur,
“What’s wrong with being second or third rate?”

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