When Art Resembles Lief

Jeanne Lutz’s commentary about last night’s LIEF reading at SubText: a bookstore (“fifteen of the most eclectic writers out there read their work as part of LIEF Magazine’s debut celebration”) recapped the event so well that I won’t do more than you refer you to it, especially since it included a bonus picture of me wearing the “best glasses ever“. You be the judge of both the glasses and my eclectic piece (included below) – and I thank Jeanne for including my effort and glasses in her review.

This event delivered more than a pleasant reading by St. Paul’s finest poets. In the basement bookstore’s comfy, mismatched arrangement of chairs, the Lief Troupe never got bogged down in heavy-handed seriousness, even though some of the poems were serious, some sad (mine was).

The arrangement of voices played like a fine chamber orchestra, each player’s spirited solo complementing the player before and the one after, as well as the rest of the ensemble. I had a smile on my face the entire time (that is, after I read my piece – see below) and particularly enjoyed the quick humor of the emcee. I’d as lief have every reading go the way of Lief’s, with that same kind of insouciant, light hearted attitude.

The reading reminded me of what I like about writing, and I needed that reminder because there is often so much I hate about writing: it requires hours of work, results most often in rejection/criticism, and success is typically rewarded with little to no payment. The very definition of #insanity.

My best work comes when I work in good humor, off the cuff, with no other intent but to play and enjoy what comes of it. Write happy to be happy. Be as Lief. I’m going to do my best to keep to that. That said, here’s my Lief poem, a bit mournful, bittersweet. I played viola.

Vivian, in her grief

Vivian, in her grief, lost her singing voice so she turned to tuning pianos to make her living — she lived hand to mouth — mouthed the songs sung by beggars — begged for answers to her prayers, for release — released her coil of once-lustrous hair — hair gone pearl gray at her temples, scarcely waving now it was so thin — thinned her window-grown seedlings so the strong could survive and grow — grew whisper thin as the years passed —passed by in the streets unnoticed — noticed how the snow banks sunk into gray shanks of slushy foam — foamed mute with fury when they took her toy poodle to the pound — pounded incoherent on her ex-lover’s door though he’d died so many years before — before, she had inspired everyone — everyone who had loved her now-lost naive luster — lusted no more for her when the loss drove her mad, from his death-bed — bed to bed — to bed every man, though not a one was like him — he had gone off to war and died, taking her song and leaving her grief — in her grief, Vivian turned to tuning pianos to make her living.