Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Finding Love in Poetry Performance

Click on photo for larger image.

Seventeen years ago my sweetheart came into my life. He literally walked into a performance I was presenting in the court yard of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, that is.


"You're working against the wind," he whispered in my ear.
"I know," I looked at the pile of calculator paper at my feet, on which I'd hand written the poetry I recited from my laptop.
"Let's do something about it," Gary said.
"All right."
While I continued with my Lunch Break poem he wound the calculator paper around the four palm trees cornering a Roman style pond.


Lunch break

Eating chicken with my hands brings back memories/ in the metro
thoughts of others brush aside my own/ my brain like a station's steady flow of new and old/ my fingers slippery from chicken fat the words are mixed and I get a line down on paper marbled with stains of grease and watercolors/ pictures blend/ my tongue is locked behind the eager lips/ the key I swallowed after I learned to speak/ in refuse mingled with delicacies/ I see at the bakery the pastries he offers on his anniversary/ or was it ours my 21st his 3 rd/ or was it a birthday I forget/ or is it the melting pot the pot au feu the ever-boiling contents of the bowl I carry on my shoulders/ when at ease it looks like fruit my body a fruit-cake/ and otherwise a volcano a factory/ and I the off-key hand/ every other delivering/ and/ all I hear/ are bells somewhere next door/ in my mind/ on the night-table/ someone who needs to say that one singular important thing/ in it goes and then I need to add some/ to delete/ to lengthen/ to offer more or many/ and even the one and only/ the television has no power no use for a plug/ I need my words in print to eat chicken in peace.

Is it silence you hear rather than words/ white not a color you merely perceive through the void against red blue and yellow and all that comes in between/ am I because you see me/hear me/feel me/if so may I be in your mind/can I be in the picture for me I exist because of you your space

Lunch Break © 1990 Judith van Praag
Performance photographs were taken by a graduate student of drama who followed me around campus.

The moment I read, and/ all I hear/ are bells the Kniker Carillon of the infamous tower of the UT campus main building started playing "Happy Birthday to You".
How about that?

My friend, (then) Associate Professor of Architecture Markos Novak said, "That was well rehearsed!"

Who, what, we? Do I know this guy from Adam?
It comes to show, love arrives in the most unexpected places and times, in this case during a poetry performance.
After the show Gary offered to take me grocery shopping. The next day he called to invite me for a ride in the country.
The rest is history.



My rambling poem Lunch Break was inspired by the 1990 reading of the poets Michael Warr and Luis J. Rodriguez at Shakespeare & Co in Paris (I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now). Click for larger image of photo George Whitman, unknown customer and dutchessabroad JvP
Photograph © 1991 Marjan Schelvis

Friday, February 13, 2009