This past Friday marked the first time in five years (since I moved to Europe) that I read one of my poems in public. It was at the open mic at Poniatowski, a very successful evening that stretched long after magnetic, dynamic emcees Jolanta and Kapuczino left the stage. A few of us stayed on til 5 a.m., drinking vodka, talking deep and talking shit, singing together, even dancing a little. We bonded and one of the performers, the talented Canadian Christijan Robert Broerse, said he would send me a sample of his own stuff to feature on this blog (stay tuned!). Oh, and when we hit about 4 a.m., I even played some sort of wooden drums for a couple songs, accompanying Christijan’s acoustic guitar.
Besides some familiar voices and faces, a few people had their debuts in the Leipzig open mic circuit last night, with performers coming from diverse backgrounds. There was a stand-up comedian from Albania whose jokes clearly riled people, but he stuck through with courage and composure. And there was also Alex, a literature enthusiast from Ukraine. The emcees announced her as a (self-described) “dramatic performer.” She gave quite a show reading the last page of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger; before she began, she described the James Bond movie it inspired as “a feminist dream compared to the novel.” It was uproarious.
I have done plenty of singing other people’s songs at open mics and jam sessions around Leipzig, mostly impromptu but once with the 40-plus-piece orchestra Blaswerk. I did sing at last Friday’s open mic as well, during the regular performance hours, accompanied by the lovely Dolus Mutombo, and people told me they enjoyed it. (We played reggae.) But sharing my own poetry with people out loud is another story. It’s a lot more personal, to begin with. And I always feel like I need to give some sort of context for the piece of poetry, and talk and read well, whereas with singing I feel like I can just get up there and do it. Although I do have trouble knowing just how to position my hands, and how to move when the instrumental parts come on. See, I’m an awkward dancer on stage, and definitely wouldn’t call myself a performer. Anyway, it all seems to have gone over well.
Here’s the poem I read at the open mic, which I brought in written by hand on a piece of notebook paper. I wrote it at one of my regular hangouts Café Pushkin (a bar with a bit of a Bohemian commie vibe, named after the late Russian poet), when someone dear challenged me to go somewhere and create a poem in a couple hours. I left the house and went there alone and sat for a while, and this is what came out…
At Café Pushkin the day before New Year’s Eve, 2014, by Ana Ribeiro
“The wild days must be over sometime.”
My Freund‘s words enter the bar
with me – through the red
curtains, the soft yellow lamp
glow, set against the prickly
peaceful blanket of winter white.
“The wild days must be over…”
But matchboxes surround
the sweet Christmas bouquet in
front of the old-style beer
pump, and I swear I see weird
patterns in the soup of
the guy next to me.
“The wild days must be…”
hidden behind the dead Russian
poet’s expression sprayed on the
bar wall, faded, but I swear
I hear his “Raise higher your
glasses and move them right
now. Long live airy muses and
brightness of brow.”
“The wild days must…”
be read about, and that’s what
the old Herren are doing right
now: One stands at the bar with
his Buch and Wein; the other
sits with his Zeitung and Bier
in between bouts of staring,
“The wild days…”
lie in an unheard decibel of
this afternoon’s patron’s overlapping
voices, in an undetected shade
of color somewhere in the kitschy
pictures of scarved babushkas
and those of obvious communists.
idea that those fake Roman columns and
construction bars, above the bar, and
the massive lit emperor’s head may
fall on me crosses my mind and I
try to interpret the symbolism but
by now I’ve had too much wine.
“The sacred gold rings,”
only to me,
“Let fall through the wine,
sweet and cold.”
But “the wild days must be over
sometime,” and through the peace
before the onset of the night’s
alluring, treacherous, tightening
hold, out through the red curtains,
his words threaten to follow me
but I must leave the soft, coy
yellow glow behind.