Bookstore Reading, Telegraph Ave, Berkeley

by Jerry Ratch


There's someone in the audience who is immolating himself

Cutting his own leg over and over with a pen knife

And groaning: “Oh God, oh God”


And all I can think from up at the podium is

This guy must absolutely hate these poems


I'm reading from Puppet X, the first time in public

My long 60 page

Admittedly somewhat depressing

But very funny (if you give it a chance)

Book-length series of poems


This guy must be ready to retch

Right in the bookstore

He hates it so much

This is all I can think


I am mortified

I didn't think it was

That bad


This is Berkeley, mind you, 1973, Telegraph Ave

Anything can happen, as the war in Viet Nam

Keeps raging on 

And our brains are getting 

Taken away on stretchers 

Every day