Alex M. Frankel
    This reading series started exactly two years ago, in 2009, because it was high time for me to have a job in the community. Near the end of 2007 I lost my father, my last remaining family member. As part of my healing I took a long trip to Europe (I used to live there in the eighties and early nineties). I visited London, which was mostly Hell; and Barcelona, where I had lived as a younger person; and various parts of Italy: Milan, Venice, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. A trip that started in Hell, rose up to Purgatory, and finished in Heaven. I returned home, and still in culture shock after the Italian lakes I went to readings around town, some familiar and some new to me, and was even invited to “help organize” a poetry marathon in Highland Park. I did two things at this marathon: I sat outside and supervised the parking, which did not need any supervision, and I ran one errand for the person who mounted the event:  the errand was to drive to Antigua Bread and buy him (sic) a strong cup of coffee according to his very strict specifications.
    I learned things from this experience: it was good to be of service, but I needed to do more. As privileged as I felt in my role as parking attendant and errand boy, it was possible that I did have more to offer the community.  And not just as a poet—perhaps not mainly as a poet. Then, in 2009, I looked around for a venue. I hosted a reading at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena; it was a “pilot” reading. The store’s events coordinator, whatever her name was, did not want a regular event. I approached the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Lake Avenue here in Pasadena, but I’m still waiting to hear from their lawyers as to whether they will permit a reading to happen. Maybe one day I will hear something. In the meantime I’ve found the Café Alibi. I do pay rent, but it’s worth it. We’ve had some marvelous poets here—luminaries like Brendan Constantine, Charles Harper Webb, Kate Durbin, Tony Barnstone, Laurel Ann Bogen and Richard Beban. And we’ve had newer poets like Shannon Maraghy and Randy Israelow and Gedda Ilves. I have strived to make the quality of this reading as high as possible without it being exclusive, snooty or cliquish. So we’re here—paying the rent, passing the basket, hoping to be around, in some form, for another two or twenty years.

Respect for His Glasses, One Year Later

My father’s heavy
old enormous glasses
just as flabbergasted as I am
are still trying to get by
without him
alongside his adding machine
and his cufflinks
Defenseless glasses—
if I wanted to
I could pet them
I could squeeze them
or hand them to a homeless person
I could set them on a 78 turntable
and have them go crazy to Glenn Miller
I could put his glasses in an Osterizer
dunk them in Lake Berryessa
or Lake Merced
I could lick them or kick them
put them on a hooker
eyeglasses without a future
I could dye them violet or bite them
or break them in two. . .
He must be groping frantic in his night
these are glasses built for banks and business
the Ritz Carlton and Trader Vic’s
glasses for bringing up a son
big bold glasses
If I try to look through them
they think against me
and I’m swimming
in a nervousness of father lore / father love
hear old shouting and shouting

What kind of world did he see?

Maybe if I stare at them
long enough
I’ll figure out where he’s gone
because in them I catch relics
of skin     eyelashes       eye
father me now
even with your last face
the one trampled with age
strong frail father
who raged against my manners    
and my mess

I hid behind a mausoleum
and watched young men dig
then I peered
below the boards
at that sick space
(eighty-nine is too young!)
dark and forever and lonesome down there
for a father to breathe

The years will be here for a while
and these glasses without a future
              my inheritance    my gold
—tired of dining around—
just go on pondering without a future

I look at them
and they look out
for me

Ron Vierling My Teacher

Oh the beginning of work! Pouring oil
Into the cold machine. First touch and first hum
Of the engine springing to life!
                                                        —Brecht, “On the Joy of Beginning”

First period and you would burst in
with your load of soap opera and grit and love of the times
or pose profoundly by the window in turtleneck and leisure suit
praising James T. Farrell and James Agee
brandishing them in front of our faces
as daylight lit up your head the way it lights up famous men.
Throughout sophomore year you strode in front of the chalkboard
at that private school for the rich
rhapsodizing over Robinson Jeffers, John Dos Passos,
or hovered in the doorway, tall bruised and brimming
with all the Little Bighorns of your past,
all the years of carousing among hobos, deviants, Harvardians and saints
till one morning you couldn’t resist and we watched
as you stood triumphant on your battered desk bellowing Carl Sandburg out to the birds!
What times of electric typewriter smell
and fountain-pen thrill of ink and beginning!

    And yet in the very next room
    a slender unknown
    —Danielle Steel—
    was carving away
    her chateau of the mind
    out of sugar cube,
    orchid scent.
    We never saw her much,
    she was just part-time.

        And yet in the back of our class
        the calmest craftiest boy
        you or I or anyone ever knew
        —calculus wiz Ethan Canin—
        was slouching and snickering
        along with his minions.

Ron Vierling, you must have taught and taught,
decades of it—right?—
lucky like me, like most of us,
reciting your little poems
in the back rooms of galleries, public libraries,
no one looking in. . .    

© 2011 Alex M. Frankel
Alex M. Frankel was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the September 2011 Second Sunday Poetry Series