Shadow boxin’ when I heard you on the radio

My soul is quenched! Last night’s feature was just what the doctor ordered. Let’s start it a la Tony Brown and recap the set list (as I best remember it)

How I Got Here…*
Ceviche
How I Got Here (continuation)
Brooklyn Back Break Beat
Where’s the new shit, O?*
Oda Para Leticia
Sorta Rican (Prelude 1)*
Sorta Rican (Prelude 2)*
Sorta Rican (Double Discovery)*
Bi/Cycles
Mercy on the Battlefield
Let me end it with this…*
*New poems making their debut

The night started a bit late as Mindy (the host & curator) tells me that I go on first and that the Open Mic comes on later. (Reasons the Open Mic should go first- let the feature get a sense of what type of audience is present that night; also, allow somebody(s) to warm up the mic and the space.) Since I am not going to get those favors I gotta do something to calm my nerves. I already had a Gin&Tonic thanks to Mara which was cool to settle down but I didn’t want anymore and read on the mic all sloshed up so I go out to the patio and have a stogie courtesy of Noel Camacho. We talk about some Bronx poetry and the cultural rebirth and then he gives me a second to gather m’thoughts and papers.

As I come back to the bar, I go down some steps as I am intro’ed (very, very diva)! The Willie Perdomo stool is there so I set myself up and after some light banter. Start with the first of six new pieces, until I turn the page and instead of the end of “How I Got Here…,” I find the “Ceviche” poem. Luckily the poem ended on a good note. The crowd clapped so I played it off. Did “Ceviche” (since it was there) and I wanted to make sure that I looked like I knew what I was doin’. Finished it up and then searched through the papers for the end of “How I Got Here”

…ok, y’all… lets pick up back where we left off…

Damn, I am nuts. Actually, I am just blessed with the gift of gab. There are a few things that can’t be taught in poetry- metaphor and banter. Either ya got it or ya don’t. When I first started, my poems were weak and my delivery, god awful, but I knew how to intro myself and keep the crowd on my side for a minute and that talent has followed me ever since.

Which is how I survived my friend Alexa calling me while I finished up a poem.

…yeah. i’m in da middle of the feature.. i know they told me i would go on latah but they changed their mind… everybody say “hi, alexa”… HI- ALEXA!… gotta go… call ya latah…

A nice mix of old and new and a tip of the hat to Rich with “Where’s the new shit, O?” as I can not feature with Villar in the crowd and not drop some new hotness.

“Sorta Rican” is the personal/political rant I’ve been wanting to write ever since I saw a 10 go up in the air. (Why lie?) I always knew that I wanted one in the holster but I also knew that it would come out of me at the right time and sure enough, it did. Three parts- all very real and observational as these Pietri tributes have left me with something more than just post poetry giggles.

“Bi/Cycles” is the poem that I never have the nerve to read. It tells the most about my big heart break but still keeps a sense of flow on the page. Born of a Guerrieri led louderWorkshop, he was so psyched about it- he read it before my upperCase but I still never found an opportunity to drop it on a stage- till yesterday. There were mad smiles as I was up there and I could count on looking up and seeing family beaming with pride. There is a reason why I don’t read it- most people don’t get it! Leading to me finish the piece to utter silence.

…clap!…
is my response to the crowd. They did and Mindy asks me to do “MotB” A week of Bonafide doing “Creed of the Graffiti Writer” and me loving it everytime (click, clack, click, clack) threw all those “Aren’t they sick of it, yet?” doubts to the curb.

I performed it and then closed out with a nice short to the point piece that tells of where I hope to end up when the applause finally leaves.

…thanks for listening y’all…

Best part- I still had five poems in the belt ready to whip out. I really wanted to drop “Ronald Reagan…” and “Capicu” was all memorized but the flow was right and I punched out at the right time.

Special love to Bonafide and Juan Diaz for calling me right before and wishing me the best. Hey shit happens… right, Juan? ;-) Of course, the CEO of UPHA, Alexa, gets some extra sugah for her call.

Big ups, in no particular order-
Noel Camacho
Holmes McHenry
RL tha Gifted One
Fish
Anietra Guzman
Mara Jebsen
Rich Villar
Jessica Torres
Eliel Lucero
Edward Garcia
Matt Siegel

and the extra special surprise of the night- Michele Kotler. As we speak, Community~Word Project is in the process of sending out over 2,000 invites to a fund raising party that will help define their next fiscal year and in the midst of all that, Michele came out for me. Nuff said! (Notice how that makes 12 and I hit my number- yeah, kid!)

The Open Mic followed and as it tends to happen- We took fuckin’ ovah!
Fish, Rich, Jess, Matt, Eliel, Noel. Holmes, RL and Ed (thowin writers block out the window and droppin some newness for the first time in months) all did their thing.

Let me say that every beauty has an imperfection and it came through in the form of the “Surprise Feature!” as a Johnny O regular dropped four pieces(!!!) to close out the night. Lucky for him, the hatah took a night off and let it be what it be.

Lechonera- El Coqui was fun but not as fun as it coulda been since our favorite waitress took the night off. Much pernil followed and Matt discovered yucca or as the gringos call it- cassava.

OK, I’m done. Long ass entry, for sure, but one that I will look back at and smile at from time to time.

Sorta Rican, out!

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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