The Reading
by Marcus Bales

Her mouth too near the microphone
            She first intoned her title; 
Her voice a buzzing monotone 
She said, I think, our souls would moan
With howls like Allen Ginsberg’s own,
And slurred and blurred her dreary drone,
            In tedious recital.
She gripped the podium on stage,
            Her poem never ending —
And only her decrepit age
Assuaged the next three readers’ rage
As, turning yet another page,
She spent our time as if her wage
            Depended on its spending.
As moderator, I did not
            Perceive a lot of choice
As murmurs grew: somebody ought,
No, had, to halt her verbal squat
So toad-like in our garden spot,
And find a way to staunch this rot
            By stoppering her voice.
So arms out toward, as I’d been taught,
            The middle of the mass,
I aimed, breathed out, and squeezed, and shot
The leather-lunged and doddering blot
Who’d droned along as if she thought
That once she’d seized the mike she’d got
            Some sort of life-time pass.
The general approach of Law,
            And many of its minions,
To shooting someone through the craw
For her inane blah blah blah blah,
However last that last last straw,
Is that it is a fatal flaw
            In not a few opinions.
The prosecutor even shed
            A manly tear to show it
Had moved him greatly she was dead:
“Her pure poetic spirit fled
Prosaic Death’s pedestrian tread … “
“Wait, wait — “ the jury foreman said
            “You say she was a poet?”
The prosecutor said “Indeed!
            And she was published widely —
I’ll use your question to proceed
To show you.” He began to read.
At length, the foreman knelt to plead:
“Stop reading! We have all agreed!
            We can’t abide this idly!
“You’ve put us through this punishment
            And made your case absurder;
We find the shooter innocent
Of any criminal intent —
Indeed, we actively lament
Your sly attempt to represent
            This noble act as murder.
“We hold free speech must know its place
            If it is to continue:
You must not underbid your ace,
Nor doubt the Holy Spirit’s grace,
Nor sing the tune if you’re a bass,
For decency demands you face
            The moral law within you!
“But poets who have read too long
            Must all be superceded —
We urge you when you’re in a throng
While poets thus are in the wrong,
To make your protest very strong
And aim to end such ceaseless song
            With shot and shell as he did!”
The prosecutor gave a sigh
            And packed away his pleadings,
Then gave me such a look goodbye
It made me think he meant to try
To mutely say, or just imply,
That maybe I’d be wise if I
            No longer read at readings.

* * * * *

Not much is known about Marcus Bales, except he lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and his poems have not been published in The New Yorker or Poetry magazine.