Stone Soup Croutons is a weekly poem I write using lines and impressions picked up from poems overheard from Stone Soup's open mic readers and features. I figure out a title (and sometimes the rest of the poem) later. You can read the other ones I've done since 2015 here. To paraphrase Lorne Michaels, this poem doesn't go up because it's ready, it goes up because it's Friday morning.
So, yeah. This intro is going to be a little longer than the others.
This past weekend, Bill Barnum passed away. Though last night was billed as a regular open mic, I was sure there would be at least one poem about Bill. James Van Looy was definitely going to perform one. His wife Jan Rowe had texted me the night before that he was working on a piece.
What I didn't know was that James was doing this unaware that Bill Barnum was no longer alive.
James was among the last people to visit Bill in the hospital. James was the one who informed me about Bill's condition prior to his death. I assumed James was still in the loop. Somehow, he was not.
In fact, no one in attendance last knew Bill had passed away. No one.
Those in the room were decidedly not part of the Facebook generation. Jan, the only one of this group who was on Facebook with any kind of regularity, wasn't there and clearly had been too busy to be on Facebook the last few days.
I thought James had known and informed them. This was not the case. And the way I told them must have seemed almost in passing, like some newscaster going, "Oh, yeah, Billy Barnum died. Here's sports!"
What followed after the initial shock was an incredible outpouring of various emotions both related to and unrelated to the loss of our friend. And somehow, despite the set up, our time finished off with poetry and hilarity. Thanks to Marty Levin for starting off the hilarity with this mime and dance act. He had second thoughts about performing in that dress (which he brought with him), but I insisted.
|Marty Levin as the girl in the Blind Melon video.|
At the end, James read his poem for Bill. Then I did my first Bill Barnum impression since his death It felt right. Thankfully, the audience agreed.
I didn't go into last night intending to do a Bil Barnum tribute poem, but yeah, that's what came out. Enjoy it. And later, enjoy watching Bill Barnum on YouTube. Thanks for reading.
Update: At the request of Ron Goba, I workshopped this poem yesterday to realize that my use of pronouns was very confusing. I don't want to go into too much detail, especially if no one noticed the first time. If anyone did, I'm sorry. Suffice to say, I put more characters in the poem than I normally do, which made the poem confusing. Thankfully, the poem reads much more clearly. I may change it more once I resend it to Ron's group, but I didn't want to let the original version stand.
Last Night Between Heaven
and Hell Where Poets Go
for Bill Barnum
There's a snake in your throat
trying to hide from God
and not choke to death
on any loose hairs.
It stalls for time, asks
if you've been saved, wonders
what you did before you had faith
in more than just yourself.
Skin bruised to the color
of coffee, you share
the plight of a bumblebee
with its wings pulled.
Old street mime,
your desperate ballet
pulls the reptile out
with an invisible rope.
You declare en garde,
charge with cane as sword.
The serpent flees to retry
the garden banning it.
Before any applause,
you head down the sidewalk
planning own Eden,
an acreage of rare design.
|You'd have loved the night, Billy.|
Special thanks to Carol Weston, John Galloway, Martha Boss, Marty Levin, Laurel Lambert, John Lane, James Van Looy and, of course, Bill Barnum.