On Wednesday night at the monthly gathering of the South Jersey Poets Collective, Cole Larry Eubanks, who has been an ice-cream man on the Atlantic City beach for 24 years, at least, read an original work on immigration.
He’s been having some health problems lately, causing symptoms he referred to as “ironic.” Tumors in his jaw had forced doctors to remove much of his jaw bone. Among the ironic symptoms he experienced was a nerve condition that caused everything he ate to provoke the fight-or-flight response in his mouth. He was getting most of his calories through a syringe therefore. But after the first few bites, the effect died down somehow. Before that: intense pain.
There were sixteen poets and part-time poets in attendance at the Arts Garage in Atlantic City. Ernie Schell read a poem written in the first-person about the Zapruder film. Barb Daniels read her poem about marrying an iron stove—“lady of the weedy yard, red dusted and in her belly clinkers.” Brian McWilliams read an original piece inspired by Da Vinci’s painting the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel tells the Blessed Virgin, seated, “her left hand raised as if to say, ‘Just a sec. I have a few questions,’” she’s pregnant with the son of God.
Cole Larry was having a little trouble talking. A few weeks ago, doctors removed a piece of his fibula and used it to rebuild his jaw, but his body rejected the transfer. He had considered, he said, asking Aubrey Rahab, the emcee, if she would read his poem, but that would have denied us, he said, a chance to practice listening skills so important in poetry.
“I’m going to make you work,” he said.
His poem was about crossing the desert, being sucked back into the Old Testament. “The Virgin of Guadalupe, the Rosaries, have no jurisdiction here.”
Outside, the tips of the windmills spun above the Expressway overpass. On Mississippi Avenue, lines of diners waited to get into Angelo’s.
“It’s 2018, and El Salvadoran and Guatemalan babies are velcroed from parents, by America, put into cages, then covered by shiny metal blankets. Listen to the little baked potato wail.”