Eaux Claires: Day One

Where to begin? How about the bog? The bog was a nice place. 

It looks like the Darien jungle, not rural Wisconsin. In fact, that morning of the festival I spoke with my parents on the phone, and my dad and I went on a tangent about liver flukes and the time he wandered in the Darien Gap. He came out alright. Don't try hiking the Darien Gap at home. 

My first recitation at the Oxbeaux Stage wasn't until late afternoon. Waiting around caused a psychosomatic headache, so I watched a few sets to take my mind off my brain.  Then I let "Olly Olly Oxen Free" out of its cage.

It is the wildest thing to sit in your living room imagining the people you're going to share your work with, then to stand before them as they actually listen to you. I just wanted to rub my eyes until they squeaked, but only Andy Kaufman could make that entertaining. So I recited instead. Then it was off to the Escape Installation.

Photo by Benjamin Wick

Photo by Benjamin Wick

I'm making an odd face here and a go-long hand gesture, but I swear I was reciting poems in there. I did about ten recitations for small groups of patient people who waited in line to get inside. Some were from England, several from Eau Claire, a couple from Montana, a Denver dude, and many from the glorious midwest. It warms my bloody little heart that in this mad, mad world people take the time to experience art. They're not hurting anybody. Not like those liver flukes.

I did one more recitation of "Olly Olly" and tossed in a couple extra poems since someone made the mistake of telling me I had some stage time. I added "Lifeblood" which I wrote for my brother and sister-in-law who were in the crowd. Then I enjoyed the gratis spread involving birthday cake disguised as cornbread. Fantastic as the food was, it was hard to swallow when John Prine went walking by.

Whiplash to Chance the Rapper, who is the gravitational center of the cosmos when he wants to be. I was equally impressed by his team of ASL translators. Rapping with your mouth is challenging enough, but rapping with your hands while dancing is supernatural. Yes, supernatural is the word I choose for the moment a group of people who have devoted their lives to passion get together on one piece of ground. But it remains incomplete without those who have come to witness it. I left the day in awe and wet feet. The ethereal trees ushered us into night.