Poetry from Erica Dawson, Peter Meinke and other Festival of Reading authors

You can see the writers Nov. 17 at the Times Festival of Reading at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Published November 9 2018

An excerpt from the first pages of When Rap Spoke Straight to God, the new book-length poem by Erica Dawson, associate professor at the University of Tampa.

When Rap Spoke Straight to God

When U-God from Wu-Tang said, You ain't heard

us in a minute, rap spoke straight to God.

When I broke bread, it was a syrup sandwich.

I licked all the body off my nails.

I saw two birds stalking a basketball court,

rivaling a confirmation when they spotted

buckled asphalt and saw a growing squall

go smooth. And when they dove to break the surface —

a reconciliation. I said to God, Just watch

the demonstration every night. You'll see

blackness kept in its station. I saw peace,

one time, in fuchsia dusk — a fair tomorrow.

And I saw dusk that plagiarized my one

and only prayer —

Hallelujah. I'm ready

to go searching for that mysterious dark

when nightfall proves to be empty before

the heavens turn red from the fire.

A poem from Florida Man: Poems by poet and journalist Tyler Gillespie.

Alligator Named Florida's Official State Reptile in 1987; or, Birth Year

A male gator bellows: heart-stopping roar

to attract females & claim his territory. They mate

then he peaces out (as some men do ...).

She makes nest: mud & sticks call it

single-mom ingenuity. She lays up to 90 eggs

incubates & waits months for young to hatch

If baby cannot break shell on its own

she takes egg in mouth gently does it

herself. These newborns instinctively

know how to catch their own food but

they can't yet protect themselves from predators.

so the mother defends her offspring from a father

who eats everything — his young included —

if he ever gets hungry enough to come back.

A poem from Tasting Like Gravity, the latest collection by Florida's poet laureate, Peter Meinke.

A Poet Looks at the Largest Moon

A poet's moved in on our block

He unclasps his pony-tail and sleeps

in a deep magenta hammock from Yucatan

Books spill over the floor and sofa

He eats acorns picks mushrooms

from the neighborhood lot

In early morning he nets mullet

on the bay across the street

Boys jump off the bus

yelling Hey d'you smoke pot?

They toss bags of garbage

on his small bed of wild bergamot

At home after sunset still

smelling of fish he drinks tea on his porch

toasting the swollen moon

as it tips the benighted stars on top of us

and writes his poem

A poem from the anthology All We Know of Pleasure: Poetic Erotica by Women, edited by poet and fiction writer Enid Shomer.

The 4-Barrel Carburetor On a '72 Chevy Camaro

By Lorna Dee Cervantes

He could make love like a 4-barrel

carburetor on a '72 Chevy

Camaro. Man, he could go. Pumping up

the pistons, discharging with a growl.

He wasn't all that to look at, mostly gleaming

chrome and wire. Slick in the upholstery

and revved. He was a 2-bucket seat

palace, a chariot of wiles. He was

coming back. He was a place off the map.

He was coming home and he was moving.

He was a reserved parking space, a handicapped

spot on the heart. He was a ticket

waiting to be written, a stop-on-a-

dime promise of forgiveness. He could

pick up in the alley, carry away on the charm

of his engine. All the draft on a knife

point of design and desire, his get up

and go: his knack.