Poetry: Listening to Love and Heartbreak at St. Elmo’s

With Valentine's Day around the corner, the Greater Del Ray Poetry Reading was something else.

The Greater Del Ray Poetry Reading at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. (Photo by James Cullum)

Snap-snap-snap. There’s nothing like sitting in St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub on a Friday night and listening to Alexandrians pour their hearts out just before Valentine’s Day to the gentle applause of finger snaps. Naturally, as the Port City is the most romantic in the country, its residents also expressed profound heartbreak, self reliance and redemption at this month’s Greater Del Ray Poetry Reading.

Alexandria poet C. Thomas broke down emotional barriers with his hilarious and deep streams of consciousness. Check out this passage from his poem “Missed Call”:

You’ve reached the voicemail of the
man that used to love you.
Placed no one above you.
The man who watched the sun
rise and set before you.
All that’s left…is the busy
signal of a broken heart.

Alexandria Poet Laureate Wendy Kaplan, whose term is expiring this year, has hosted the monthly reading for the last three years – first at Fireflies in Del Ray, and then at St. Elmo’s after the former closed in December 2017.

“Loving broken hearts. We picked the theme because of Valentine’s Day,” she said. “St. Elmo’s has been an amazing place where young and old and different cultures come together to express themselves.”

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Alexandria’s Julie Jakopic, the CEO of iLead Strategies, used the occasion to blow off some steam after a hectic political week for the Commonwealth.

“I like doing this stuff, and I like opportunities to speak and share and make people feel things. It’s good practice,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but I keep trying to finish the perfect thing, but I was determined to make it this week, so I brought a book that I read over the holidays and that I liked, and read of those poems.”

St. Elmo’s owner Christine Ponzi read one of her father’s poems – and it was the first time that she participated in the monthly reading.

“The stories, the poems, they’re just amazing,” Ponzi said. “There is such talent in this community. It’s a lot of fun, there’s people who have never gotten up and done it, and it’s beautiful to see them bare their hearts.”

The Greater Del Ray Poetry Reading is held on the second Friday of every month at 7 p.m. at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub.

If you’re interested in poetry, Kaplan will host a special reception“Celebrating Building Bridges and Creating Community through Poetry” On Friday, Feb. 15, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron St.

MORE: Del Ray Artisans: What’s Old is New Again at “New Beginnings” Exhibit, Now through Feb 24

Missed Call

By C. Thomas

You’ve reached the voicemail of the
man that used to love you.
Placed no one above you.
The man who watched the sun
rise and set before you.
All that’s left…is the busy
signal of a broken heart.
I loved you….
I remember reaching out reaching out to
touch you. Your response, a lost signal
of emotions. Leaving me with unlimited
minutes questioning if my intentions for
loving you were worth it.
Nights alone, filled with laughing dial tones.
Calling you was joke—me the punch line.
I disconnected a piece of me every time I speed dialed your name.
Foolish to think your heart would click over to acknowledge me.
No emoji for the nights I spent wondering where you were but knowing another carrier was
holding you.
Caressing you.
Sexing you.
Giving you what you wanted!
Hanging up was your thing.
You live for prepaid affairs.
No attachment to a love of your own.
No rollover for the minutes burned crying for you. My love, a collect call only accepted on your
terms otherwise ignore button hit. Lesson learned the hard way, this relationship been
disconnected. Past due notices received long ago—I never paid them any attention.
I’m confessing a love treated like one night stands—even then calls were dropped.
Maybe I should have loved you through text message. Misspelled my emotions, disabled
autocorrect to make lying easy. Should’ve swiped affection LOL followed with:

Of course I love
you! Bae why you trippin?
I’ve redialed the day we met. Never thought you’d hurt me. Confused chirps from your cricket as
a heartbeat. I built my life around you.
Gave my all, wanted nothing but you in return. Your plans limited in coverage. The wrong
extension from day one, my bad for misdialing.
I loved you so much.
Placed no one above you.
Watched the sun rise and set before you.
Everything we had was a blocked call.
The heart you’ve dialed can not receive any more of your heartbreak. Don’t bother to leave a message. Please hang up and never try again.

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