Spoonful: A Gathering of Stone Soup Poets

An extension of Cambridge's Stone Soup Poetry Venue.

"The Zannotated 'Cockatoo'" by Rafael Woolf

Photo by Bill Perrault

As you know, most of Bill Barnum’s poems are really references to his own experiences. To do, say, “Cockatoo” thoroughly would take pages and pages. Here is just a sampling.

A cockatoo of rare design
perched on an awning over a bazaar
outside the palace

Bill Barnum played the lead in an all-male Swan Lake back in 1938, believe it or not, at the Metropolitan Opera House. One afternoon, during rehearsal, a freak gust blew the feathers of his costume into the wings—of the stage, that is. He found them perched, like a bird in their own right, on part of the stage set for Act One of Carmen: a square in Seville. The rest is history.

Laughter fills a Bowl of Lilacs.

Yes, there was an actual bowl of lilacs. Bill’s obnoxious landlord had come to bother him about something one day, and Bill’s cat (his forth, actually) playfully tried to sharpen its claws on the seat of the landlord’s pants. The cat’s claws were quite sharp already, and as the landlord whirled around to see what was happening, his pants and underpants split completely, exposing his entire arse. In a desperate attempt to hide the fact that he was laughing, Bill buried his face in the nearest thing handy, a bowl of lilacs. He quickly fabricated a story of an asthma attack and a little-known yoga breathing exercise for which bubbling water and the smell of flowers were absolutely essential.

Darkness Presides among daylight mourners at the sun hotel.

This was the funeral for Johnny the Dip, the pickpocket. He was quite beloved in that part of New York City in the thirties and forties, because at his honest job as a short-order cook, he made a chili that—if one believes the stories—has never been duplicated and never turned anyone down if they were out of money. He actually gave Bill the recipe on his death bed. Alas, Bill made the mistake of lending it to a Platonist who ate the recipe, because he said it was the ideal form of the actual dish. Never room with a philosophy major.

Irresponsible glass toy ball!

It did exist. It was (and actually remained) an ordinary Christmas toy until the winter that Bill decided to spend strengthening his personal “aura.” Evidently, Bill overdid it just a little, because one day, for five minutes only, his fingers repulsed anything he tried to grasp, including the glass ball. Bill recalls futilely chasing the ball back and forth under this dresser, muttering unwarranted generalizations about the ball’s personal character.

Men Spill sperm through same door’s rust.

Actually, this is probably not the first time it’s ever occurred. Bill was lying in bed, listening idly to what was going on in the rest of the building, when he heard two people next door, fumbling with a ladder. This was not unusual, but the next thing he heard was heavy breathing coming from both of them! He stuck his head out the door, and there they were, trying to lubricate the hinges of their door with their own sperm! When he asked what was going on, he received the curt reply, “We ran out of oil.” “Works for me,” he muttered, pulling his head back in.

Misnamed adventure in the nave of darkness.

This is the title of a very blasphemous off-off-off-off-Broadway play was in for exactly one night before they shut it down. The plot centered on a love tryst between a priest and a grave-digger in a grave. Since the grave-digger was female, the director actually didn’t think it would cause that much outcry. Bill played the grave.

P.S. None of this is true!