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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

my poetry debut

October 25th was my big poetry debut at the Kent State Wick
Poetry Center. I was one of three students reading that day. I
had my poems in braille and two tactile interpreters at my side.
All I had to worry about was making a total fool out of myself
in front of all those people.

My interpreter counted 40 people. My Dad said there were about
75 people there. Either way, that's a lot of listeners when it's
your first time reading your own work.

The reading began with the director's introduction. I'm not
sure of his proper title or position, but he was the same man
who introduced W. S. Merwin a few weeks ago. That made me feel
kind of honored.

The director read our bios. The first two students wrote about
all the writing jobs they've held and what they've gotten
published and the scholarships they won. I took a different
approach with my bio:

Angela C. Orlando is a non-traditional student at Kent State
University. She is taking classes "for no other reasons than to
experience new ideas and keep my brain active and challenged."

For the past three years, Angela has enrolled in a variety of
ASL and creative writing courses. "I have never felt so alive
and energized as when I sit in those writing classes," she says."

Angela is new to poetry. "I almost didn't take Introduction to
Creative Writing because of the heavy focus on poetry. Something
magical happened during that class. Now I'm writing poetry and
can't seem to stop."

Much of Angela's writing is influenced by her rough experiences
as a woman with multiple disabilities who was trapped in an
abusive marriage. However, she is proud to be the first
deaf-blind person to become a student at Kent State.

Angela's other inspiration is her 10-year-old-son, Joseph. She
explains, "One day Joseph asked me why I'm doing all this poetry
stuff. I looked at him and said, 'because I can.'"

Suddenly I thought, "This is wrong. I shouldn't be here. I'm
not qualified enough." Nervous jitters will do that to you.

I was last to read. I had one student's poetry in braille. I
had to use an interpreter to follow the second student's
reading. I'm ashamed to say I didn't take in much of either.
What was coming in through my hands didn't seem to reach my
brain. I was thinking of my poems, and how horrible this was
going to be.

Then it was show time! They put a nice, cushioned chair up front
for me to sit in. I read from a packet of braille papers. I
tried to remember to speak in my grown up voice, so everyone
could hear me. And so, it began.....

I read four poems that have appeared in this blog: Angela
Orlando, I am From Pain, My Abuser's Hands and Out To Lunch With
a Friend. These poems appear at the bottom of this post in case
you missed them the first time.

A funny thing happened while I was reading, my mind would take
over, and I'd find myself performing from memory, with much
expression and feeling. Then I'd check my place in braille and
realize my fingers were no where near where I left off. Yikes.
Sometimes I couldn't find my place again, so I finished the
poem by memory.


Yes, I did stutter some. I said "cruel flate," just like I
kept doing in practice. Plus my nose was runny so I was
sniffling through most of the reading. Still, it wasn't the end
of the world.

My first three poems were quite dark, so I picked out the fourth
to end on an upbeat note. For dramatic flair, I signed the
last line, "Our hands still brimming with things to say."

And so... it was over.

One man in the audience asked about my disabilities. I briefly
explained my history and told them about PHARC."

My poetry teacher spoke for a few minutes to thank us for
reading, and to thank the audience for coming. She also told us
about other upcoming center. at the Wick Poetry Center.

I still sat in my comfy chair while people came up to offer
congratulations, ask questions or just say "hello."

One of the first to reach me was my friend Abby. She had a
special gift for me. I burst out laughing when she handed me a
bottle of Pumpkin Ale. We were trying to find some last week
while out on a shopping trip, but had no luck. If you ask me, a
beer is the perfect way to celebrate a poetry reading.

It was also rather amusing. Other people came over to talk,
like Jeanne Bryner, who is a local poet I greatly admire, Dr. Orr
(my teacher) several students and some people who work at the
Wick Poetry Center. All those people... all the compliments...
and the whole time I was holding a beer. Too funny.

It went well. I'm glad it's over. I'm also pleased with the
results and happy I had the chance to be involved.

Here are the four poems I read.

Angela Orlando
I am Angela Orlando
Daughter of Pride and Guilt
Born into a life of grief and suffering

I am silence
Piercing screams in an empty void of nothingness

I am darkness
Crippling despair against a wall of black Hell

I am a fallen angel - God's faithless messenger.
His message is clear - "Follow my word or face the fury of my
wrath"

I am Angela Orlando
I am afraid


-----

I am From PAIN


I am from PAIN
Muscles screaming, Nerves shrieking
Pins and needles but, oh, so much worse
A whole body protesting
Stop! It hurts-- I can't take it anymore

I am from LOSS
Senses gone, Abilities diminished
My whole body, a broken shell-- It won't do what I want
Cruel fate takes it all away

I am from DESPAIR
This isn't what I was meant to be
It's not fair
It's too much
I can't do it
I can't go on
Depression embraces my soul
Dark and black, There's no way out of this suffocating hole

I am from DEATH
A brother facing his own demons
He gives up in the ultimate sense
Alone and ashamed, he swallows the pills that extinguish the
flame of his being
I'm left to tell my son that his favorite uncle is dead
I witness my mother's pain, her body wracked with sobs of grief
How can I survive in a world that doesn't include my big brother?

I am from COURAGE
I am not my brother
I can not give up
I will not give up
I will take the slaps and punches that life throws my way
I will face my major foe, even if that is my own body

I am from DETERMINATION.
Don't tell me I can't
That only makes me want to do it more
I'll find a way, a winding path out of the deep and shadowy
forest
I'll climb the mountain, even if I have to crawl on hands and
knees
Bleeding, bruised and broken, I will reach the top

I am from LOVE.
Sweet child, I saw him take his first breath of life
With tears streaming down my face, I gazed at him for the very
first time
My son, Created from my spirit
He has my blue eyes and freckles
He calls me Mommy
We flourish in love and laughter
We are one force that can never be separated.

I am from LIFE
Experience, Good and bad
I face it all
It's like a fruit salad all mixed into one bowl
I pick out the bananas but I can still taste them
You can't take away one part of the whole
Each moment is one more piece in the greatest puzzle-- one more
thread in the most magnificent tapestry
Apart, it means nothing
Together, it tells the story of who I am and where I'm from


-----

My Abuser's Hands

I remember my abuser's hands.
They were large and red--
angry Hands--
hands that dominated and controlled,
rough and dry, like sandpaper,
corrosive, withering my spirit.

I remember my abuser's hands.
They were greedy,
grabbed at flesh and pleasure,
took but never gave back,
clung to cigarettes and alcohol,
liked the feel of money and what it could buy.

I remember my abuser's hands.
They spoke to me,
words in my hands,
more brutal than fists
stabbed at my heart
words so cold and cruel.

I remember my abuser's hands.
They beat me,
punched and slapped,
roughly shoved,
pulled my hair,
yanked me apart, piece by piece.

I remember my abuser's hands.
They haunt my memories,
visiting me in dreams,
beckoning to me from afar,
"You can never escape;
I'll return one day."

Oh, how I remember those hands!


-----

Out to Lunch with My Friend


We sit in the cafe at lunch hour, my friend and I,
Drinking coffee while waiting for our sandwiches to arrive.
The cafe is crowded,
I look up, at a sea of faces,
The haggard looking waitress bobs around,
Like a buoy tossed about on the crest of each wave.
I imagine a cacophony of sound,
The clatter of plates,
The chatter of people,
The shrill cries of a baby,
As her mother frantically tries to calm her, at the table beside
us.


I speak to my friend,
With hands raised, as if ready to perform,
And they do,
In a graceful dance -- A ballet of the hands.
My left hand soars across my body, in a flaming leap of passion.
My right hand thrusts forward, and gently returns,
The reluctant lady, as she tries to flee but is drawn back by her
desire.
My two hands come together to meet at last, with a lingering
touch, in a lover's embrace,
Then they fly away and flutter downward,
The dance is complete -- the curtain is lowered.

My friend smiles and begins her own poetic response,
As the waitress rushes forward and drops our plates on the table,
She escapes, on the ebb of the tide,
Without giving us a single glance.

We finish our food in silence,
Yet speak a thousand words,
Then we pay for our meal and leave the cafe
Our hands still brimming with things to say.

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