First Saturday Open Mic at Dagny’s, July 2, 2022 with interview of Jay Squires

By Carla Joy Martin

There was a vibrant crowd at Dagny’s First Saturday Open Mic on July 2, 2022. Many poets shared their work. The performers were Chris Craddock, Gary Knerr, Jay Squires, Jill Egland, Lori Lampo, Portia Choi, Samuel Rain Benjamin, Sandra Hughes and Carla Joy Martin.

Jay Squires shared two intriguing poems with us. Here they are:

At the Precipice

By: Jay Squires

Let us linger a moment more;
I promise then we’ll go;
a moment more to gaze
across that ancient spread. See?
those distant and marvelous peaks?
See them there? Those peaks
which eat endlessly the valley
somewhere beneath the smoldering plain?
Oh? Why not then take it on faith
what my imagination knows first hand:
how, hidden in this valley
are all the unpopular miracles:
secret groves that dazzle the eyes,
as would an emerald sun;
magnificent trees (those needly towers)
that are loftier and more splendid
than any child’s dream could make them.
And everywhere, everywhere,
wildflowers waft a fragrance
much too delicately perfumed
for anyone… Save those witches who,
in veils of white gauze,
whirl among the trees
beside the path that winds
round and round beneath their dance.

No! Don’t go! Not yet, my love;
or, rather we, hand in hand
step out upon that plain … No?
Then, hush! And let my words paint,
what below, together, we’d surely find:
below, there are a thousand ponds,
and at each pond’s edge,
water Sprites imitate the Universe
with their spritely feet
in water so frigidly azure,
that on its surface snow and swans
transform eternally as they drift.
But oh! Do you feel it too, my Love?
Are you as overwhelmed as I,
here at the precipice
by a sudden chill?
Look! The sea spreads now before us,
truly the Arctic Sea;
a limitless expanse of troubled foam,
the dull, lusterless color of ashes,
the color of the sky.
Terrifying, yet ravishing, No?
It stretches out
through the twin polar caps,
further than imagination can measure.
Still, reason tells me,
(as do you!) that soon
all will be dispersed by the sun:
the witches, the Water Sprites,
the sea, everything …

all will vanish;
for, nothing that mind creates
can endure that terrible sun,
the sun’s first shafts.
So now we may go.
Let me wrap in mine your hand
and together step forward;
or turning, go back;
because in a moment

all will vanish, everything …
everything, except the mountains,
those primitive altars,
those marvelous peaks,
eating endlessly the valley below.

~ ~ ~

“Is there a beauty so impalpably profound that it stands as guardian of the curtains of extinction?”

Irreligious Fly Upon My Wall

By: Jay Squires

IRRELIGIOUS fly upon my wall,
if God did make you after all
He made you fatter I recall
before my frightful swatter’s fall.

Then sings my chorus:

      Fatter, fatter, we recall      
       before his frightful swatter’s fall
       before his mighty swatter’s fall.

And now it really doesn’t matter
that you were fatter before the splatter
you really — really do not matter.
I’ll swear with God you do not matter.

And I’m certain God certainly couldn’t care lesser

that I snuffed out serenity’s skuzzy transgressor
with my swatter — that wondrous irritant redresser
and I’m saintly enrolled here as flyflesh-deflator.

Then I hear in my ear a protestor’s faint call:

But God loves all creatures, mighty and small. 
 Then someone from my camp, at the back of the hall
 shrills: He created the mighty to feed on the small.

Then rebounds my chorus:

     He created the mighty to feed on the small,  
      and we are the mighty who devour the small
      resounded from ceiling to floor round the hall,
     God loves the mighty who devour the small.

I turn and the sole detractor is gone.  It appears
his manhood was neutered, his confidence sheared
by strength found in numbers; preponderance he feared,
and his exodus our doctrines proof engineered.

Or did it?  Or did it?  How do I know
that the quivering enemy didn’t just go
to recruit larger numbers and come back to sow
seeds of panic that our Lie in our faces will throw?

For, when noisome fly is your courages fodder
soldering insignificata-to fly-to hand-to swatter

let this creed from the lowly make the haughtiest totter
He who lives by the swatter will die by the swatter!

Q. What inspired you to write your poems?  What are their back stories? 

A. The two poems that I read to Open Mic on July 2nd have a varied history. 
The first one, “At the Precipice,” as I mentioned when I gave my introduction to it, was
written back when I was about 24 years old — and in love. I’m glad I have this poem as a
kind of history of my thinking at the time it was written. I wouldn’t trust today’s memory
being cast like a fishing line back across the decades some 58 years. The fish I’d reel
back would be long dried out in transit.
But I do have the poem.
And reading it brings back to my mind, each time, the pink-cheeked young man,
standing at the precipice, looking across a “vast expanse of troubled foam.”  To the
beautiful young realist standing beside him, her hand sweating in his, it was not troubled
foam at all, but simply ground fog stretched all the way to the twin mountain peaks in
the distance. The mountains were not the “primitive altars” as her lover insisted they
were: “those primitive altars, those marvelous peaks, eating endlessly the valley below.”
They were merely twin mountain peaks with all but the tops eclipsed by the fog.
To stand at that precipice and then … step out, hand-in-hand, upon that smoldering
plain — was, to the poet, the farthest reach that would test the depth of the love she felt
for him. To her … well it was death by foolishness. Once finished describing the fantasy
world beneath the insubstantial foam, he pesters her: “Why not then take it on faith what
my imagination knows firsthand?”
Of course, she doesn’t take it on faith. She fails the test as she was destined to. And
because they walk away unenlightened … the poem remains.
And no … I was truly a Romantic back then, but not an idiot! There is a precipice out
there … somewhere. And a sea of angry foam. Until a young poet, with or without his
lover, steps out upon that foam, this will remain a metaphor.

The second poem, “Oh Godless Fly Upon My Wall,” you might say was chosen as a
counterpart to the seriousness of the first poem. Point of fact, though … I chose it to
read because when I practiced it at home, I had so much fun rolling all those vowels
and consonants around in my mouth. 
The content of the poem itself takes a back seat to the bombastic ass of a narrator. It
was his story and I don’t feel I did it, or him, justice. Standing in front of the audience, I
was far too nervous to fill the shoes of the narrator the way an unselfconscious actor
could have. But it was Open Mic and while we carve and buff our poems in what can
often be the brutally lonely matrix of creativity … we now have the opportunity to give
our children the legs with which to walk on their own.
I am happy I had that opportunity.

Q.  Do you like to read poetry?  If you do, what poets have influenced you?  Who
have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?

A. You asked me what poets inspired me. Here I must confess I read very few modern
poets. However, one I’ve read recently moves me. His name is Alan Moore. I must say
his poem “Old Gangsters Never Die”, leaves me in awe of his power. It’s on Youtube if
anyone wants to know firsthand what I mean: 
Of the other poets who one might find in any college anthology, I choose only three: I
need a steady diet of Dylan Thomas to stay creatively healthy. Sylvia Plath and Emily
Dickinson are two others. And in my opinion, there would be little of today’s poetic
richness and flourish if it weren’t for the rootbed of courageous anarchy that Walt
Whitman provided — and still provides.

Q. What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create poems?  How do

you make a poem?  Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to,
etc.?  Give us a glimpse into your creative process.

A. If I were to offer one piece of advice (beyond the old saw of writing daily), it would be
to study astutely every step, every feint … every creative thrust and parry, made by the
writer penning this today over his sixty-five-(plus)-year writing career … and do exactly
the opposite. Your goal will be closer at hand and your trajectory straighter.