Central Square is the type of neighborhood were radically diverse worlds co-exist at the same time. Here I was sampling some of the city’s best French cuisine at Craigie on Main and evading Casey’s questions for my plans for the rest of the evening. I had chosen a black asymmetric tweed blazer with frayed edges from Joie, hoping it would take the attention off my knit tank top and Vizcano jeans – I planned to lose the blazer later on.
I was trying to go from ‘uptown’ to ‘downtown’ in the most discreet way possible, which in Central Square might literally be across the street. The jewelry I was wearing was understated and minimal, even for me.
Casey was giving me the details of a disastrous blind date and wielding suspicious looks at my irregular attire. Fortunately, she had merely playing the all-encompassing hand of matchmaker. I don’t know what Casey was thinking but poets and politicians should never be paired together. Erroneously, she had assumed that I was going on a hot date or meeting some mystery man afterwards, with my mouth full of Damariscotta Oysters in a candied lemon mignonette, it was easy to be evasive. I wish my evening were that intriguing, there were more than a few mystery men that I would rather be rendez vouing with but alas it was only Rumi that I was meeting.
Across the street in a parallel universe Rumi was waiting for me in gritty little establishment that had cheap beer and live music. Central Square was Rumi’s stomping grounds. I was long past the age where I hung out in seedy little taverns, but for too many weeks I had seen Rumi scribbling in his notebook…or waving his hands and murmuring before a mirror I assumed he was in a play or doing stand-up. The last thing I suspected was that Rumi was getting ready for a poetry reading, especially not one at a dive bar in Central Square.
The Cantab Lounge is known for cheap drinks, live music (bluegrass), open mic and on Wednesday nights…poetry slams. Home of the Boston poetry slam, the last thing Cantab was known for is ambiance; I tried unsuccessfully to this explain to Casey.
“Not your cup of tea at all.”
“Please, I have as much grit as beatnik hiding out in a basement and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see Rumi perform. This may be the beginning of a new career or several blackmail photos, either way I want to be there to cheer him on or duck the tomatoes.”
Low ceilings and fold out chairs, piping casing the walls and nothing but a stage, a microphone. Casey, and I walked in a little apprehensively as if we’ve landed on a new planet. I spot Rumi (dressed in black) sitting with his friends.
“Where’s the beret?” I ask mussing his hair just in time to see the first poet take the mic.
I listened to poetry that was as fluid and versatile as any chameleon, effortlessly changing its structure and its nature. Verses delivered like music from poets that were also rappers, story tellers, activists and performers. As their words hit the audience, the audience responded, hitting back with equal energy and passion.
Soon it was Rumi’s turn to take the mic and spout his sonnet and rap his rap, his words falling with rhythm like the pattering of rain, about anguish, about disenchantment… and love. A poet emerged that night and I responded clapping like thunder and howling like the wind.
Next Post: Feb.15