Peddling Poets Bike Ride around Miami

On Sunday, April 12, starting at Soundscape Park, musician Taylor Ho Bynum led a group of free-wheeling Peddling Poets who presented site-specific poetry and music on a 16-mile loop, routing through downtown Miami and Miami Beach area, with stops at Miami Circle, The Standard & more. The ride culminated with a 6:15 performance at O, Miami’s Poetry In The Park at SoundScape Park.

Featured poets included Adrian Castro, M.J. Fievre (moi!), Michael Hettich, Jen Karetnick, Geoffrey Philp and, in memoriam, Jeffrey Knapp.

3:00pm: opening invocation, Soundscape Park

The Acoustic Bicycle Tour Peddling Poets Ride is well under way and adding to Miami’s sonic glory!

Taylor Ho Bynum at Soundscape Park
Taylor Ho Bynum at Soundscape Park

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3:45 – 3:55: Adrian Castro at Scottish Rite Temple

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Michael Hettich at Miami Circle
4:10 – 4:20: Michael Hettich at Miami Circle

4:30 – 4:40: M.J. Fievre at Bayfront Park: My assigned spot was Bayfront Park, but we ended up at Museum Park instead since Bayfront was closed. I read one poem about the Haitian Flag Day celebration at Bayfront Park park, and another about Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak who was shot in Miami in 1933.

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5:05 – 5:15: Jen Karetnick at Standard Spa.

Last two stops on Acoustic Bicycle Tour Peddling Poets Ride before O,Miami’s Poetry In The Park – Mt. Sinai and the home of Jeffrey Knapp for memorial of the original Bicycle Poet.

Geoffrey Philp at Mt. Sinai
5:35 – 5:45: Geoffrey Philp at Mt. Sinai

5:55 – 6:05: Jeffrey Knapp in memoriam

6:15: Closing performance (all poets, all musicians)

Acoustic Bicycle Tour Peddling Poets reading at O, Miami Poetry Festival Poetry In The Park with Taylor Ho Bynum.

I hope you enjoy my Bayfront Park poems below.

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A NAME FOR IT

In the plume of heat that engulfs
the night air, Haitians dance to konpa
rhythm in Bayfront Park. They are
live wires flicking like a dare.
Their pockets of worry torn
from their blue and red
shirts, they’ve found something
inside themselves,
asleep for so very long
you don’t know the word for it.
But there must be a word for it.
A word like home.

So much went wrong since you left
Lavallée, in Jacmel, 25 miles
from Port-au-Prince.
Still you dance,
waving the bicolor flag, and I know
you are tired of seeking shelter
in thisstrange land. But I can’t
give you back
the unclenched jaw
of your childhood.

You hide your homesickness
like a single clove
among the soggy chunks
of eggplant and okra
in the legumes
they sell at the food stand
on Haitian Flag Day.
The mildewed stench
of thrift stores
clings to your blouse.

In the crowd no one
hears the tears
but you feel them,
and your tongue
wants to go on
telling the longing
that does not want
to be told.
Hands weaving ghosts
in the air,
you’re in solitude
among multitude.

Until
the beat of the konpa songs
become hands on your hips.
Only then
do you stop looking down
at your feet,
forget about gravity.
You fall into me,
your soles slipping
on jagged terrain.

As you dance, you lean back
into my chest
and I don’t know your name yet,
but allow the back of your head
to nestle in my sternum.
You find something inside yourself, asleep for so very long
you don’t know the word for it.
But there must be a word for it.

A word like home.
A word like HAITI. Your Haiti—
lost, forgotten, remembered, found.
Sainted
in the plume of heat that engulfs
the night air, as you dance
to konpa rhythms in Bayfront Park.
You are a live wire
flicking like a dare.

***

FOR ANTON CERMAK

I was five when I knew I would not die.
I walked out in a noiseless hour, before dawn,
and listened to my breath engulfed
in a silence just like the one in Bayfront Park
before the rustles of traffic from the boulevard,
before the sirens in the distance,
even before the crows ink against the curb,
purring and clicking
as they beak and throat the worms—
a silence so silent that I heard nothing
but the sound
of some immeasurable thing
having nothing to do with me.

I refused the idea that I could vanish, like rungs
of a ladder tugged out.
In the dark, I thought of a word,
then of another word, and I imagined
a sentence stretching long enough, breaking
into a road that led to
where the dead ones roamed.

Here, in Bayfront Park, in a noiseless
hour, before dawn,
the real world falls away around me,
but the dead is rescued from oblivion
and turned into words, into sentences,
into the plunges and loops of handwriting.

Anton Cermak returns, undead,
a warm wind blowing down the throat
of his suit in that afternoon in 1933,
ghosts quickening on his every side.
He, who cannot hear, listens for
the cheering at the rally.
He, who cannot see, watches
President Roosevelt emerge
from a yacht after a fishing trip to the Bahamas.
He, who cannot smell, inhales
the gun’s sharp glare.
He, who cannot feel, suffers again
the sudden burn of the two shots.
He sags, and his eyes are still black—
only the way out is closed.

Anton’s plaque is shining and smooth
and I trace one word, then another
word, and I imagine that they keep
him from disappearing, so that it counts
for something— the handshake
with the president, the vigor of joy
in the hands that clapped together,
the blouses heavy with Miami
sweat, the hot wind, the bullets,
the meaty hand on his shoulder,
the ride to Jackson Hospital.

What part of this is least terrifying?

It’s easy to die. It’s the easiest
thing we can do.
As people laugh and bikes speed past,
I take Anton’s memory as a gift,
believing we can all cross
back over to this world, wishing one another
good night, arranging play dates,
and returning to our cars.

One is a world of ghosts, and the other
of the living, but can you be certain
which way the road goes?

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