Poetry reading held in northern Detroit suburb. Art is in the air. I settle into one of the uncomfortable metal folding chairs and look around. Mostly middle-aged people and I sense something else...self-satisfaction. Give them a moment and they'll start purring.
The first woman reads. She's dressed in black; her strange yellow hair is highlighted with purple edges. She's been published in different literary journals (you know, the sort where writers read other writers, because readers won't), and she's even had her work acknowledged by Garrison Keillor, so what the hell. She reads..something about Cambodia and children. The audience leans forward. And as she ends a string of words soulfully enunciated, a choir of "hmmms" sound around me. Hmmms?
Yes, the audience appreciation has reached a zenith and can no longer be contained. The only appropriate outburst of such yuppihood is a heartfelt hmmm, expressed with profound meaning to try and connect with the poet, to show her how deeply she has touched them. HMMMMMM. I wonder how such an expression of appreciation would sound in the midst of a sexual encounter.
Another poet approaches the stage. The bar has been set high. How do you match this level of intensity and soulfulness? Damn it. I see the fear in her eyes. What began as a reading is now a competition which has escalated to dizzying heights. Hmmmm.
Her eyes tear.
What? Yes! She's playing the moist eyes card. There's a quiver in her voice as she delivers a bit of word soup, a jumble of consonants dripping with angst. A pause. Electricity crackles in the air and....it begins with one small "Hmmmm," tentatively expressed, but quickly picked up by someone in the back. "Hmmmm." "Hmmmm" It builds. The moment is magic. The incoherent mumblings around me are evidence that this isn't just poetry, this is mind-numbing genius which energizes the shakra and dances through the cosmos. The challenge has been met and she is triumphant!
And the next poet? Why bother. Really. Why bother? It takes everything I have not to say that out loud. Instead I shake my head, cringe a little at the indigestion I'm suffering from having eaten too much spice, and mumble "hmmm."