One Night at the Poetry Circle

The leader of our poetry circle

insists that a poem

should say something true,

that a poem must speak

in the writer’s authentic voice.


One night not long ago

after many beers & queer

hawk-eyed combats concerning

the meaning of white space

group sex, the haunting

rhythmical hitch of the line break

our leader turned to me & said:

Why don’t you gift us

an extemporaneous poem?


Root it in the earth

but reach for infinity.

Craft your words to encompass

all of cosmos & the void.


He favored me then with hipster smile

steepled beringed fingers

fattened by rich food & drink

beneath his wobble chin.

Triple piercings of ear & nose


as did his knife-like eyes.


I thought for a moment.

A thousand fire-green voices

ghosted Yeats & Shakespeare

Heraclitus, Ginsberg

Clark Ashton Smith

Blake & Poe & Dickinson

in the maelstrom of my mind.


Breath in.

Breath out.


I spoke:

You will die one day.

An inevitable sorrow.


At your funeral service

a poem

maybe two, maybe three

will be voiced by the cleric

instructed to grieve in your name.


The dead are comforted by poetry

& prayer

or so we are told.


In the years following interment

your stardust, O Leader

will be carried off in the bellies of insects

& the black gulfs struck incandescent

by the fires of a million million suns

will whisper one harsh word:



When I finished there was silence

a hard set of mouths, guarded eyes

& a soft monkish shuffle

of fashionable $200 shoes.



said our Leader

is a very interesting poem.


—Carl E. Reed

For more of Carl E. Reed’s poetry see Spectral Realms Journal issues #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15 (July 2021), #16, #17, & #18 (2022 & 2023). https://www.hippocampuspress.com/journals/spectral-realms

Also: Penumbra #3, 2022

Black Petals: https://blackpetalsks.tripod.com/blackpetalsissue72/ (“Vampiric Threnody” and “Ghost: A Working Definition”)

(Note: “Lost”, “Succubus Seductress” and “The Crime of Frankenstein” will appear in the October, 2021 issue.)

Santa Claws is Coming to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity:

Inflections in Horror (spoken word album): https://carlereed.bandcamp.com/album/inflections-in-horror-the-weird-worlds-of-carl-e-reed


18 thoughts on “One Night at the Poetry Circle

    • I appreciate the comment, Liz!

      However: Please know that I did not intend (not that “intention” ever matters to proponents of the New Criticism) that the persona of the narrator in this poem come across as “mean”, but rather–having been put on the spot–as thoughtful, unflinchingly honest and direct. In the events as narrated in the poem posturing is punctured and egos (those of the narrator, leader of the poetry circle and attendant observers) are cut back down to size by a mordant reminder of what the end game of mortality entails.

      Believe it or not, my hope is that this poem will be received as a deeply felt materialist work of bracing humanist perspective and awe-struck humility in the face of cosmic mystery and grandeur. Given the inevitable breakdown and dissolution of the marvelously complicated aggregated clockworks whose emergent cognitive homunculus manufactures an illusory “I”, I should think a little perspective-setting in order from time to time–especially for the preeningly arrogant, the insufferably smug and the comically self-satisfied.

      Of course, a poem should not mean but be.

      Liked by 4 people

        • That second paragraph isn’t intended as parody but precision. (See: latest works of cognitive science.)

          But whatever. (If you thought that was purple–brace yourself!–skip ahead a few entries.)

          PS. GD has oftimes implied he questions whether or not I hail “from this sector of the galaxy”. I keep assuring him that I do; he keeps demanding to see my “long form” birth certificate.


          PPS. Some of us “old guard” are doing our level best to keep eyeballs returning to the site. How do you keep people active and engaged? Entertain them. And how do you entertain them? Sometimes that entails ginning up a bit of controversy. Sometimes that means crafting a clear, cogent piece of industry commentary or confessional reflection. And sometimes that means blurred-leg pedaling of a rainbow-colored tricycle whilst sporting a rubber Frankenstein mask and juggling flaming toasters. . . .

          Liked by 4 people

          • Believe it or not, I agree with most of what I take to be lurking beneath the purple prose in the “Believe it or not” paragraph.  (Tho big on precision, I’d still say it very differently.)  But flaming toasters can be fun too.  😉

            Liked by 1 person

  1. mimispeike says:

    Inspirational! I love it!

    Sly writes love sonnets to the arrogant Sha-Sha (a monkey at Queen Elizabeth’s court), or I would try to borrow some of this. Maybe I’ll try anyway.

    Your knife-like eyes skinning me alive, your seductively beringed fingers dancing with delight.

    (Sly is obsessed with her human-like fingers (with actual fingernails!). He’s always wanted fingers, so as to be able to wear important rings in the style of the nobility.

    Something to think about, definitely.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Glad you approve, Mimi! Consider: The existentially tortured, bleakly nihilistic verse of Carl E. Reed that champions a heroic pessimism and–insofar as possible–an egoless, absurdity-embracing cosmicism [sic–not to be confused with “cosmism”: a religio-philosophical position of early 20th century Russian thought] in response to the “call” (by which I mean to reference that hair-prickling sense of awe when the nervous system is shivered by an in-rushing sense of mystery and the terror of the numinous) issuing from the trickster mouth of a chaotic cat to his ice princess monkey lover at an Elizabethan court mired in Machiavellian intrigue–the mind reels! Whatta ya tryin’ to do, kill literature?!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You’re cracking me up, Mimi! I’ve been called many things in my lifetime, by many different people. But an inspiration? Never. (I advise you to seek immediate medical attention/crisis intervention.) What? Who said that?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hipster–you nailed that image! I love the idea of poetry comforting the dead, too.

    And the overall picture: the arrogance of the Creative Type, the setting, an incestuous (as in, only writers reading other writers’ work)poetry circle, and the preparing-to-mock demand of the hipster for some spontaneous art.

    Enjoyed it thoroughly!

    Liked by 3 people

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