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Center Stage: Local poets share talents during island Open Mic

By Staff | Feb 4, 2020

Marsha Wagner

Joe Pacheco opened the first Open Mic of 2020 with a powerful piece of poetry by urging us all to “Make America Good Again.” Whole and good, by having us all extend our hands and our hearts to help the poor, show compassion, by simple human caring for our fellow human beings. When we do this America becomes once again the beacon of freedom and light, which is what this amazing country has always stood for. He also thanked The Sanibel Trust Company for sponsoring the evening’s proceedings and then introduced the first speaker, Judy Stern.

Stern opened with a Minnesota tale about visiting her family after they had moved from Minneapolis to the country. Her speeding down a country road and alerting a police officer. The officer follows our speeder to a farm, where she announces to no one in particular, “Honey, I’m home” and the funny surprise ending to an amusing tale.

Sid Simon followed with a pleasurable surprising encounter with a fellow biker on our bike path. Simon helped with this man’s broken bike chain, which led to making a new friend by sharing stories, and finally donating a bicycle helmet as well as a safety vest to this young immigrant; a hard-working dishwasher who lives in Fort Myers and travels daily back and forth across our busy Causeway. The ending was a tearfully grateful hug and a smile from both. Way to go, Sid!

Next Pacheco introduced his former neighbor’s son – a now grown up, talented college student – musician and songwriter Johnathan Skaggs. Skaggs’ telling lyrics described in depth how prayer helps us find hope and peace when we are feeling down and sad. Beautifully played as well as performed, keeping the entire audience enthralled from the first note to the last.

Ruth Ann Skaggs, mother of Johnathan Skaggs, skillfully described a fulfilled life in a perfect setting, Sanibel the spot most of us call home. We can see where Johnathan gets his talents from.

Ed Sessel, who followed, wrote about how he experiences life through poetry, then passes it on to his patients; to help the healing process. Proving that healing is also an “inside job.”

Marjorie Pacheco reflected in a terse powerful piece how BP’s oil spill affected our Gulf waters, as well as the wildlife and our once pristine beaches.

Brodie Burns exposed his innermost self in full-blown, soaring, honest, angry, loving, nuanced poetry that requests us to reveal and rethink our out-of-date values.

Russ Crawford thanked a down and out veteran in a forceful poem that included respect, honor and kindness, a striking way of saying “Thank you” for all you have done for us and your country.

Pacheco, in poetic form, thanked his mother for purchasing a lot in Cape Coral – but never built on or lived on – which he sold and thus finding and buying his current home and living “the dream” here on Sanibel, our island paradise.

Lorraine Vale richly described the two faces of San Francisco. The city of the “Golden Gate” in the land of fog and dreams, and the nightmare the city has become where poverty and homelessness now dwell.

Crawford read an ode to our beaches that included the many ways each of us experience them. Amusing, insightful and true for all of us.

Bob Hilliard rocked the boat with two pertinent pieces for our times. One on our responsibility in enabling hatred toward our fellow humans. Not taking enough responsibility for protecting our planet. Exchanging nurture and nature for money; followed by the admonition to dream big dreams and explore new possibilities, which can ignite through stories and poetry.

Pacheco ended the evening with an experience many of us know and loathe – waiting for the doctor; titled aptly “Poet In Waiting.” After reading three-month-old magazines while freezing half naked in his skivvies in the doctor’s waiting room, long after all sense of dignity has gone south, the doctor appears mutters something about “see me again in six months” and then hands a $450 bill, adding insult to injury. Sound familiar, hm?

Well, you may have missed this compelling and entertaining Open Mic, featuring some of our very own talented neighbors and friends reading their takes on our special island and the world in general. But do yourself a favor and don’t miss the next Open Mic, which happens on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the BIG ARTS Strauss Theater. Remind ’em when you go to say Marsha sent you!