How I Won a Poetry Slam

"The Artist" Peggy McGivern (left) and her husband, Peter Stravlo: Entrepreneur, Writer, Philosopher, Former State Freestyle Frisbee Champion, Wine Enthusiast.

My good friends Pete Stravlo and Peggy McGivern hosted a party at their art gallery in Denver sometime around the mid-1990’s. There were many talented artists in the crowd: painters, writers, sculpters, musicians, poets, etc.  They decided to have a “live poetry slam.” What fun, I thought, I’ll enter this. There was only one rule. You HAD to include some words they gave you in the poem you created. I can’t remember all of the words, but some of them were “bodice” “revolution” “Nixon” “fondest” and “honest.” I went out and sat in my car and came up with the following poem. I came in and read it for everyone, and advanced to the next round. I kept reading it and kept advancing, until there were just two of us left. Alas, I ended up winning first place in my first ever “Poetry Slam” with this poem. I got to pick out a free piece of art as my prize. I picked a cool little table that Peggy had built and painted. To this day, this winning poem is typed and scotch-taped to the bottom of that little painted table. Here is the winning poem:

The fondest memory I have
is from 1968, the Nixon era
RFK, Martin Luther King, Life Magazine
TV body counts
banging on my small-town door
demanding to be let in

It was June, sticky and humid
when Carla moved into the vacant
brown-shingled house across the street

She was sixteen
with a twinkle in her blue eyes
“Let’s play, ” she said.

I was thirteen and wanting:
adventure, mystery, romance
sex
To have it all
yet remain honest

We hid in the shade
behind the bushes
our tan young skin
cool against the concrete frame
of the basement, watching the
bagworms eat the bush
from our secret perch

Are they alive?
Do they know of the revolution?

I slid my hand beneath
her white cotton bodice
We trembled and kissed
My Mom called me for dinner

It was chicken
and dumplings.

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