Spoonful: A Gathering of Stone Soup Poets

An extension of Cambridge's Stone Soup Poetry Venue.

Marc D. Goldfinger

Jack's Open Mike 

When I first met Jack at TT's I was
just beginning my new life. I stepped
into the middle of something that

had been happening for more than
25 years, saw a giant of a slim man
holding court over a bevy of word-

smiths and I was in awe. I came in
in the middle of slam and open mike
rivalry; didn't understand a thing

about it; just wanted to write and read
poetry wherever I could. Jack always
had a place for me on the list; he never

said no; and I remember Julie holding
the poetic fort together when Jack
stumbled on occasion and I didn't

know much about that either. Jack
was my Neil Cassady but I wasn't
his Kerouac--I was just another

open miker with high hopes after
years of dereliction on the streets.
Jack let me read, gave me a feature

when I wasn't even ready for it
but I did my best because Jack
gave me the gift. Jack flew into

TT' the Bears, often just as the mike
was ready to start, and then Lee
Litif would open with a word salad
covered with Bleu Cheese dressing.
Even the night the Boston Globe came

Jack put Lee up first. It was all about
the poetry, the poetry and we all had
high hopes. In 1994 Jack was already

on the down-slope, gave his skis away
to some homeless guy and tilted the
green beer bottles back as the next reader

stepped up. Some say maybe we could
have done more to stop the slide, when
Jack started hitting the trees on the slope

we watched stunned into inaction but
we just wanted a chance to read our
poetry and he gave it to us. What did

we give him? We gave him company,
words, another night out on the town.
We could have done more but how

do you pull someone off the ski slope
when they're going down so fast
and they want to go for the ride.

Oh Jack, oh Jack, what we would
have given to be able to chase
the demons from your mind,

what we would have given to
stop the ride--but sometimes
you just can't and Jack was doing

what he was doing--while we read.
It was his obituary that no one could
really write--and Jack would have

denied that it happened that way.
He has his version of the events.
It's just too late for him to tell the story

here and earth anyway. There's a new
Open Mike starting up in heaven; Jack's
just waiting for us to show up, one by one,

Allen Ginsberg is already there, he's opening
the set with Howl. And Brother Blue is smiling
because he knows what's next. It's you, and

it's you, and it's you and you and you and me.