I just returned from a ‘reading’ at my nearest and dearest local book store, Third Place Books–finger-quotes there because there was no reading involved. The author, Lee Child, seemed to think he’d be doing our job for us if he read, so instead he talked a bit then answered questions before signing his new book, Nothing to Lose. (Interesting tidbit: The title came from a line from a Jimi Hendrix song, May This Be Love.) I’m not complaining; I can’t quite imagine the series’ character, the rough, tough ex-military cop, Jack Reacher, being read in a polite English voice. It’d be like Jeremy Irons reading a Bruce Willis line–just not right. Joe and I can’t wait to dip into this 12th book of the series, which we got hooked on only a year ago, thanks to Andy, Hannah’s husband, and now consider one of our guilty reading pleasures. It ain’t quite literature, honey, but we love a righteous, vengeful man who does whatever it takes to get a job done! Hoo-ah!
A minor distraction for me tonight, however, was sitting in the same area where I will be reading in a few days myself. Spindrift, Shoreline Community College’s literary magazine, is having a release party and I have been invited to read my small contribution to this year’s issue. By small, I mean, like it will take about 15 seconds to read my poem. The distraction comes not so much from stage fright, because I’ve done this kind of thing before, (although not for a very, very long time), but a fear of karma.
Years ago, before Hannah became an old hand at author events, and before I blossomed into my current mature, practically stoic self, we attended a women’s poetry reading, and had to leave the room half-way through, feigning dual coughing fits because we were laughing so hard and trying to keep silent. Not that the content was remotely funny–the opposite in fact–it was the sheer sincerity of the readers, the frowns of concentration on the audience around us, the lyrical lulling sing-song rhythm of painfully personal poems that drifted off at the end read by women garbed in poetess attire. Followed by a murmured collective understanding “ummmmm” from every empathetic soul. Now that I recall, it may have been my perhaps not-so-sincere under breath “ummmmm” to Hannah that started us off, running as fast as we could out into the parking lot until we were well out of hearing before breaking down into the kind of laughter that causes panic, the kind where you worry you might not be able to stop, the kind where your ribs hurt the next day, the kind where eight years later, it can still make you laugh.
This is precisely the type of poem I wrote, (it’s an old one, hesitantly submitted) and I am terribly afraid there is no other way to read it, even in 15 seconds, than how I just described. I fear that karma may come a-knockin’ and there will be no place to run.