flash fiction by RF Brown
Poetry reading in a gallery—refined? I didn’t prepare anything, but I dressed well and caught a bus downtown.
In a converted shopfront, tiny canvases barely occupied stark white walls. There was a table on which someone had placed bottle of wine (one) and no corkscrew. A busy woman arranged cookies from a box. Plotting an indirect scheme at the unopened wine, I asked first about the canvases. She pushed her glasses up. “Another group. We’re poetry,” was her tiny prosody.
I loitered in the margins with strangers, all of us shy. When it seemed pertinent, I situated in one of the chairs which were arched in rows facing the front door. A gray-bearded man two chairs parenthetical inclined in my direction. “I’ve never come to one of these thingies,” he said, “but now I’m a poet.”
The woman from the cookies, also the evening’s symposiarch, introduced a young woman from a list. The young woman stood before us. She wore considerable makeup and read free verse from a smartphone she held in front of her face like a mirror. Her poem was about emotional abuse from a despicable man. I was sympathetic to her unhappiness, annoyed she finished each line intoning a question mark. The front door opened behind her, bringing in street noise, cigarette smell, and a man dressed all in denim. He apologized to the room for being a distraction and I missed what befell the scoundrel in the poem.
Next the bearded man went to the front. From type-written pages he recited a rhyming fable about a wife who forbade guns until the day her house was invaded by immigrants. Many among the audience were incensed. Returning to his chair, he leaned near me again. “That’s the last time I read poetry to a room full of lezzies.”
The symposiarch next asked the be-denimed man to present. He held up a weathered paper pad. In his epic, an order of Buddhists took LSD and fell united into a chasm. Metaphors continued page after scribbled page, but the falling pilgrims never reached the bottom.
I looked to the symposiarch, who looked to her watch, which inspired me look at mine. There would be a bus at the end of the block in minutes. While people continued to fall down a scribbled page, I gravitated to the door. I opened it and felt free. Although behind me l sensed the eyes of every poet analyzing the symbolism of my departure.