betty miller and melvin miller as well as alice gerhart were special guests for a poetry reading on wednesday, march 23 at the center at spring street, what is known as boyertown's senior center. these three poem-sources also often have lunch at the center, so it was a great opportunity for those who enjoy meals alongside them to learn more about them, possibly insights they never talked about in their older conversations together, if they chatted with each other before. and a lot of seniors have lunches there throughout the week. we ate fish sandwiches, rice, and succotash this particular day, as noted in the blog post about melvin miller.
deb brauner helped with photography during this poetry reading. thank you very much for this assistance, deb.
below are scenes of the poetry reading. in the first two pictures, betty miller is reading her own poem in volume one of the the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history in berks county.
one guest in the audience spoke about how when she was in school as a child, she had to memorize poetry for class, and it rhymed. so we gabbed about changes in norms of poetry from then into today and how rhyming is still done here and there. we also talked about internal rhyme and gave an example of that in john heck's poem, in the final line of the second stanza.
and lastly is the excerpt of alice gerhart's poem, since it hasn't been shared on the blog or facebook page for this poetry project until now. she was born in 1926, lives in douglass township, and is a retired art teacher who still creates art. the end of the poem about her short-lived job is readable in the first volume of poetry for this project. reach out if you'd like to purchase a copy.
the shortest job i ever landed—so short i don’t remember
the name of the place, had me driving to west reading
for a week, maybe two, at the most. it might have been
reading air chutes, inc. i worked the swing shift, kept
scissors in my grips, cut air vents into the shiny white
fabric of parachutes for our soldiers in world war ii.
i didn’t know i’d work there so briefly as a teenager, 19.
all i remember is being so sleepy that i couldn’t keep
my eyes open. i know i fell asleep on a wicker sofa
there while on break. but i fell asleep mid-cutting,
too, and an older girl nudged me to waking so i could
keep the slicing of parachutes alive, hearing the nylon,
or whatever that fabric was, rip, rip, and tear between
two sharp blades. just days into my sleep-wanting,
somebody came in and said, the war is over. our fury
with japan had ended. suddenly, there was no work
for me anymore, and my cutting wages disappeared.
when i walked outside, people were shouting, hollering.
they kissed in the street, stood on the running boards
of their cars, rolled across the hoods, yelling the good
word, honking horns on repeat, pressing their palms
into those steering wheels, howling, squealing, glad
that war would no longer hold down their hearts...
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