This article was originally published in the September 2017 Trenton Downtowner.

The Capital City Open Mic series at Classic Books is starting its fall edition on Saturday, September 2, and continuing the first Saturday of every month from 2 to 4 p.m. But why wait? Four Capital City poets are ready to share now.

THE QUESTION

by Todd C. C. Evans

A DUDE ASKED ME WHAT COLOR
JESUS WAS I ASKED WHY
HE SAID THAT WE HEARD THAT RED IS THE COLOR OF HIS NUMBER ONE FOE, BUT AS TO
JESUS I JUST DIDN’T KNOW
SO WE ASKED THE MAN FROM THE KLUX KLUX KLAN
HE SAID THAT JESUS IS WHITE,
ANYTHING ELSE JUST WOULDN’T BE RIGHT
WE STILL WEREN’T SURE, SO WE ASKED ONE MORE
THE MILITANT SAID THAT THE BIBLE HAPPENED IN AFRICA AND THAT’S A FACT, SO JESUS
WAS A BROTHER SO HIS SKIN WAS BLACK
NOW WE WERE CONFUSED AND DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO THIS WAS TRICKY I MUST
TELL YOU
THEN CAME JOSE WHO SAID MAN DON’T PANIC JESUS HAD TO BE HISPANIC
WAIT A MINUTE, STOP THIS MESS I GOT THE ANSWER, I MUST CONFESS
GET READY, FASTEN YOUR SEAT CAUSE THIS IS GOING TO KNOCK YOU OFF YOUR FEET
JESUS IS THE COLOR OF LOVE THAT COVERS US ALL STRAIGHT FROM ABOVE
JESUS IS THE HOPE THAT A JUNKY CAN QUITE USING DOPE JESUS IS THE COLOR OF
FAITH FOREVER THE KIND THAT BRINGS FAMILIES BACK TOGETHER
JESUS IS THE COLOR OF US ALL MAKES US WORTHY SO THAT WE CAN STAND TALL
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST JESUS IS THE COLOR OF PEACE SO IF YOU ARE ASKED ABOUT
JESUS’ COLOR LOOK BACK AND SMILE TELL THEM TO PULL UP A CHAIR THIS COULD
TAKE A WHILE

Todd C.C. Evans is a published author and spoken word artist who has been hosting the series for six years. Born and raised in Trenton, he is the son of off-Broadway playwright Don Evans and opera singer Frances Evans. He is also the founder of the community theater group, The Don Evans Players.

Van Gogh’s Reunion

by Barry Gross

I push the stroller till I get to my spot.
He snores peacefully,
arms and legs at crazy angles
like he fell from a tall building.
I want him to know –
a curved wooden bench
covered in red fabric facing
Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers.
Van Gogh’s mad sunflowers.
Bursts of yellow, black and gold with green center eyes.
Bent, awkward angled stems. Flat undistinguished vase and background.
All built up in repeated layers of
faded blood, orange pulp and egg yolk
I want to go back in time and reuniteVan Gogh with his right ear.
I would say to him, “Yo, Vince, you really need this,”
holding the auditory organ in a shallow container of ice.
“I know a good plastic surgeon.
You can let your hair grow long. No one will know.”
My advice would continue,
“Stay away from firearms unless
you’re using them in a still life.
“I need for you to continue painting.
I promise that I’ll buy a few and
I have some friends that are interested too.
“Stay away from the booze and syphilitic whores.
Take long walks and longer naps. Find a good
therapist,
Rest those eyes and then surprise us
with images that are subtle and explosive.”
He purrs through my poem
unaware of my intention to share my spot
to have him see how I see,
to appreciate what I appreciate.
And as we walk through the gauntlet
of centuries of art
and my son is traveling through his dreams
all I can think of is,
“Vince, I need more of your flowers. I need more.”

Barry Gross, a finalist for Bucks County Poet Laureate, 2016, has participated in poetry readings in New Hope, Newtown, Trenton, Philadelphia, Burlington, Souderton, Wheeler, NY, and Bridgewater, VA. His work has been seen in the Mill Hunk Herald, North Colorado Review, Bucks County Playhouse Best of Talk Story 2014, Nailpolish Stories, Bucks County-Inspired Poems, Prose and Pictures, and Annapurna.

UGLY

by Neisha T. Kelly

U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi
You’re ugly
You’re ugly
U-G-L-Y
Heard that word so much I used to think it was my first name
Look that word up in a dictionary and I would’ve sworn there was a picture of me there Look at me
Take a look at me
You think by looking at me you know me
You don’t know me
You don’t know my struggle
It was UGLY!
Looking in the mirror was pointless
When I knew the horror staring back at me
UGLY
That one word conjured up so much pain and trauma for me
Confidence was stolen from me
How could I get it back?
UGLY
Couldn’t even walk down my block
My name UGLY would ring out like a fire alarm
Juice containers being thrown my way along with that nasty name UGLY. Pretty
Those were my sisters, my friends, never me,
Never quite shed that awful cloak
It is devastating when those closest to you believe
UGLY is your name
Let me tell you something
This sweet, smooth caramel skin and these almond eyes are
BEAUTIFUL!
Beauty is now synonymous with me
My daughter gave me back my beauty
Daily I fight back tears knowing she is stronger than me
She is beautiful and she knows it
Compassion trumps ignorance.
POET

Neisha T. Kelly is the editor-in-chief of COY Magazine, an online magazine focused on women’s personal development.

Poetry Family

by Raul Cortes Jr.

We use poetry as a weapon & we use it as therapy. We use it to understand ourselves or explain our pedigree. Poetry is the great debate without the argument. Poetry is the great escape without fully revealing what you meant. Poetry is the exclamation of getting your point across. Or a secret diary when you feel life is a pointless cause. Some poems are factual, & some are opinions. But the cold truth hardly ever has dominion. Give me all the world’s poetry, & I care not, which poem they choose to explain them. Metaphorical, Immersive, sarcastic, or a subliminal way to say things. Poetry can be put into a book or a song. I would argue that the greatest poetry is in the book of psalms. Some poems are free-written & simple. Some poems employ several techniques, taking flight in various planes of the mental. Every chart-topping composition & every blockbuster film… …They begin with us, our words, our thoughts & how we feel. Some poets get banned from being truthful & some get banned from being explicit. Some poets live in a lonely world because the narrow path is too illicit. Some poets have a lot of meaning, some poets have a lot of rhyme. But no matter how you slice, dice, sacrifice, fight or invite it, truth comes from the divine. When I step outside the poet’s office, I seek to live according to what God say A poetry-family is a human subdivision, meant to sharpen each other along the way.

Raul Cortes Jr. (aka Polo) has been a rhyming poet for more than 12 years and has participated in readings in Trenton, at Rider University, and at other venues.
Capital City Open Mic, Classic Used Books, 4 West Lafayette Street. First Saturday of every month.