We gathered in an alcove filled with books, rows and rows of pastel-coloured library books with plastic covers and little numbered stickers. Along the top of the wooden shelves, paintings from local artists glowed. Through the high windows above the bookshelves, I could see storm clouds gathering in the evening sky.
When I arrived, a woman was setting up a table with trays of cookies, juice, and coffee. The audience sat on wooden chairs, many of them chatting with each other, many holding poems that they would read during the open microphone part of the evening. Evening Poet and I compared the poems we'd brought, and we decided that I would read first.
I'd been on the edge of a migraine all day, feel tired and sort of nauseous, probably due to the low pressure system moving through the area. Usually a thunderstorm is the only thing that can bring relief from that kind of pressure. But getting hugs from local poets and chatting with friends made me feel a little better. And always, I get a little adrenaline when I read. The first couple of poems I read were funny and political: the audience laughed appreciatively in all the right places. I love when that happens.
I'd decided to go with seasonal poems – first reading environmental poems for Earth Day, political poems and nature poems. Then I chose lyric poems from other Aprils over my lifetime. I read a poem about the move we made away from our old neighborhood seven years ago, then a poem with springtime imagery, and then a poem about my sister-in-law, who died this week five years ago. I read a poem that I wrote two years ago about pine straw, and a poem about the April of my junior year in college, a poem that describes the way we would get ready for a party on a spring evening. I read my way through April memories, stacked up on top of each other, with the bulky years between them dissolved into nothing. I ended with poems about massage, meditation, and healing.
When Evening Poet stood up to take her turn, I looked up at the windows to see that the cloudy sky had gotten darker. I could feel the pressure inside my head began to lift. By the time Evening Poet read her last poem, it was raining outside, a hard pounding rain. We ate cookies and drank coffee and listened to the rain thudding against the windows before everyone returned to their seats for the open mike. During the open mike part of an evening, we heard just a poem or two from each person. It's like opening a sampler box of chocolate and getting to taste each one.
By the time the evening ended, thunder was snapping against the roof of the building. As we stared out of the glass doors in the front of the building, lightning would flash open the whole scene, showing rain pelting into long puddles on the sidewalk and tree branches thrashing the night air. For the first time in days, my headache was gone as I stepped out into the storm and ran to my car.