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Famous Poet reads in Sacramento Pubs and Beer Houses

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Their eyeballs rolled inside their heads while looking at me as if they had smelled rotten eggs. They flippantly dismissed my comment as they both turned away, irritated, like I was the one who fermented the cantaloupe in the kitchen or took Max’s potty from the outside lawn and put it in the corner of the living room.

“This morning I’m going to read you poetry,” I said. “It’s from a poet named Todd Cirillo. I wrote about him in an article last week and he asked me to review his new book.”

I might as well have said, “Hey, everybody, let’s spend the day watching NOVA’s space odysseys,” or “How about making popcorn and curling up to a National Geographic flick on the biological evolution of plants?”

Their reaction probably would have been the same. However, this morning, instead of taking offense, I had to smile, because I knew right then that I held in my hands a power stroke, strong enough to get them to drop their Us Weekly and People magazines.

Generally the rain and whippy wind is a downer. The idea of being stuck inside a small house with other people, watching TV and reading magazines, is enough motivation for me to put on my rain boots and chance the elements. But today I am not going to let the miserable weather get me down. Today, I am going to make lemonade out of lemons.

So I opened Cirillo’s new book, “Sucker’s Paradise,” and began reading.

“The Idiot”

Sitting, waiting for you.
I fidget, I wait, I sit,
I get a glass, I drink,
I drink more.
The door opens,
the door closes.
I look every time.
I read the beer signs
and the chalkboard specials
many times.
I fidget, I wait, I sit,
I drink and I drink more.
When the place empties out
and the evening is done
I look at my phone again
and still wonder
if I’ve missed your call.

All of a sudden the critiquing began. My friends looked at each other, smiled and said, “Ooohhh … I hate it when that happens.” They both look at me and neither speaks, so I read another.

“A Poet’s Promise”

Soon enough
I’ll write myself
out of your bed

the same way
I wrote myself

They both smirk, exclaiming, with shoulders shrugging, “Yep.”

Today the rain, the cold air and the wind have conspired to help me share a sliver of art, which perhaps wouldn’t have been possible had it been sunny, because it would have immediately caused the kind of irritation that only a mother knows when their child incessantly says,

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom…,” while she is on the phone talking to her sister.

Poetry for most people, when heard as a transitive verb, as in, “I am going to read you poetry,” conjures up visions of slobbering facedown in English class, trying not to snore.

The word “poetry” has lost its charm; it is antiquated and old. The tone in which the word is spoken shakes its way out of one’s mouth and into the ears of another, similar to the way the sound of a hypnotist’s snapping fingers puts a person to sleep.

“Rum Dreams”

Most of the time
I sit
with the dinosaurs,
drink cheap beer
grin and grin at the girls:
long legged,
out of reach,
black dresses,
shoes which show off the paint
so carefully put on
the lipstick,
so red and provocative,
it remains
long-long after
the dinosaurs and I
become extinct.

And so it went. I read the entire book of quick, punchy poems from Cirillo’s book, “Sucker’s Paradise.” It felt like we all connected in a strange new way, through the simple sharing of short, clear after-hours poetry, which had the quality of conversation, gossip and rouse.

It transported us from the muck and the mire of the cold, miserable day, to new, painfully joyous destinations under the neon, where people sit and look at each other, talk if they have to and simply enjoy the pleasures that life hurls at them.

“Sucker’s Paradise” takes you down Cirillo’s life journey like an 18-wheeler takes you down the steep, winding grade of Interstate 80. And then it gently returns you safely home to the ones you love.

Cirillo’s “Sucker’s Paradise” is the newest of his five poetry books and is worth the $12 that you would spend getting him drunk in a bar anyway. But to me it had even more value that day. His book provided me with a channel to communicate with friends, and to give the gift of laughter and community. But more importantly, since I was trapped in a house with people I love, it was a lifesaver.

Editor’s Note: The sixth paragraph has been changed to accurately reflect the title of the book. 

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