What a beautiful morning we shared together in Richfield this past Saturday. The Richfield Arts Commission and Crossroads Panorama put on a celebration to honor the poets and poems that won the Sidewalk Poetry contest this year - and I was one of them! I hadn't planned on being in town to be able to attend, but then my Mom went into the hospital, and I'm still here ... so we made it the goal to be Mom's first outing after having her leg amputated two weeks before.
The day was already emotional for sure, because of all Mom has been through, and just having her be able to be there with me was already making me cry. I mentioned to the poet, Emily Gold, seated on the new Bandshell stage beside me that I was not sure how I was going to do reading my poem looking at my Mom sitting there in the front row in her wheelchair. Then, she told me that she was struggling also, as her poem was about her eight year old daughter who had passed away only two months ago. Whoa. The strength she had to do that ... was humbling and inspiring. There was a performance by the young ladies from the Crossroads Panorama theater group, and then it was time for the poetry reading. Space on the sidewalk limits the lines and characters you could use, so mercifully, the poems were all short as we listened under the blazing hot sun. Gold read her beautiful tribute to her daughter, Lizzie, right before me, so after crying over her poem, I had to get up and cry about my own - but we did it, and I felt so happy to look out and see Mom there, smiling away.
All of the poems were wonderful, and all of them exemplified how we feel about our hometown of Richfield - it's special. The one by Bo Mitchell about HIS Mom (who died five years ago) fully wrecked me, and warmed my (already boiling hot) heart that a man would be so vulnerable in sharing about what his Mother meant to THEIR Richfield family.
It was incredibly moving. It was also SO hot out, however, that tears could easily be mistaken for sweat. I pointed out before reading my poem that I live in Venice, where poetry is historically very celebrated. There are poetry walls at the beach. The Free Venice Beachhead paper's motto is "This paper is a poem." But I never really felt poetry was any big deal here when I was growing up in Richfield, so I was happy to see so many people out at 9:00 a.m. on a hot Saturday morning in celebration of poems!
The wonderful new Mayor of Richfield, Maria Regan Gonzalez, was there - in fact, she rode her bike there. Awesome. We took a photo together with Mom, and you can tell how happy we all are in the celebration of both beautiful poems, and the triumph of the human spirit that allowed Mom to be there. The poems this time will be installed in the sidewalks along 66th street - I'm hoping mine goes in by the Richfield Pool (as is mentioned in my poem as a kind of bribe). My first one is on Portland in front of the Fire Station and City Hall, and I told the crowd gathered that I'm going for a hat trick next year (as the celebration was adjacent to the Ice Arena). It's pretty cool to have something I wrote actually be set in stone/concrete.
Thank you to Richfield, for this delightful honor, and to everyone who cares about poems!
*Group Poet photo by Thomas Eder