No you can’t name it Beyond Broke!

I made the mistake of looking at the wikipedia page for Beyond Baroque. 

A literary arts center I loved and worked it for over a decade, doesn’t mention me. Which I don’t mind. But that the information is so absolutely wrong annoys me. 

At one point a few years ago I tried to update Wikipedia’s misinformation. Where the almost opening paragraph references Beyond Books, my baby. So I ruminated on the writers of history. I am not one of those survival of the fittest egos. Yet I should be able to sign my name to my work. Attempted a correction but was instructed to reference another website and then link back if I wanted to correct my extraction. My edits were vanquished. 

The truth is this, I, Jessica Pompei all by myself came up with the idea for Beyond Books. It seemed logical that a nationally grant funded literary arts center, would publish. I approached Fred Dewey the director, suggesting on at least 10 occasions that the best work at Beyond Baroque wasn’t our celebrated authors, who blew through town on the weekends. But the troops of writers and poets who polished and spit clean those halls daily: those who participated in the workshops.

For almost a decade I led the Wednesday night workshop. Also the Sunday free open mike. And created the first webpage for Beyond Baroque. But Fred didn’t want to invest anything into the webpage. I asked to put the schedule up. But it was a flat no. We got huge kudos for the look of the webpage. Yet one day I got a call saying he was bringing in someone else to take over. Professionals. 

And one at a time each of my jobs was repealed. 

But back to Beyond Books. Fred Dewey was tepid, he thought it was a fine idea. If he didn’t have to do anything. Our workshop held a fund raiser and paid for the publication, we designed every aspect of Beyond Books: The paper stock, the color weight, size, soft back, design font, edit, etc.

And when the books sold Beyond Baroque kept the money. The book sold out. A second printing. Even the palm tree over the book icon that is still used today for everything Beyond Baroque was not created by “the center.” It was Nate, a member of the Wednesday night workshop. 

And he could have used the money.

The Beyond Baroque wikipedia page doesn’t mention Franceye the soul of Beyond Baroque. The bearded woman who spent decades attending almost every workshop and function. A worse omission than my name certainly is Frances Dean Smith. 

Bob Flanagan would tell poets challenged by the workshop,”If Franceye likes your work you are good” 

The precursor to the book “Echo 681” the first of Beyond Books, was my challenge to the Wednesday Night Workshop. For each of us to self publish our own chapbooks. We were a talented bunch. Mine was called, “Meat Me.” And we sold and traded them in the bookstore. 

A year later Fred created a chapbook library, and although I worked at Beyond Baroque for more than a decade my chapbook was never made apart of that collection. 

It doesn’t matter I tell myself. Someone else will tell my story. What’s in a name?  A headstone? My bed’s backboard? My fate is ashes. My people Pompei. Yet here I am trying build myself a pyramid. I am the queen of Beyond Books. It was my ideal. All mine.



a fly whizzes in

doing stunt maneuvers 

while I shower

weaving acrobatic air space

around meteoric water pounding

I apply creme rinse and wonder

how long can this fly stay up?

he’s already down

but not the pipes 

the grace of my hair clogged drain

Fly bobs with the current

an overboard sailor 

nothing to hang on to….

I soap myself and think about God

and how much smarter and bigger

the ALMIGHTY is than me

if I weren’t an atheist

suddenly realizing 

I am God.

scoop up the little water logged bugger

(his legs not paddling anymore)

I place him on the counter top

next to bottles of shampoo

and finish my bath

he might scatter or have a heart attack

if I use a blow dryer

so I leave him be

drip towards the Friskies cat food

select Fly a huge decorative morsel

place my offering next to him

and finish toweling off

I grab my cup of coffee

and turn back to look at fly again

but he’s gone

I rest content on the toilet seat

see the left over kibble

and know that my work is good

by Jessica Pompei

I studied dance at the Olga Fricker academy but not to be a ballerina. 

Desperate to be a princess. A year earlier at the masquerade ball all the Cinderella costumes had been rented. I was inconsolable, because my lot was to wear what fit me, the only costume left, the little devil. 

At the academy I studied modern dance, with Tanya, once a student to Martha Graham. But asked mother to stop making me go. 

Mother would leave work to pick me up after school. Then drop me off at the studio. Then nip back to her real estate office. It was a clever alternative to babysitting that kept me close. 

But I was unappreciative. A prisoner condemned to interminable waiting rooms.The Mogul Ski Club. The after school Tee Pee Club. And my mother was always late.

My Grandmother said I was a wild indian, without supervision. 

The academy produced pink satin troops of princesses. Pointy toed butterflies in simultaneous orchestrated compliance. I would pretend to be one of them. Holding the bar, plié, straighten, relevé, and down.

Olga Fricker while small in stature was a formidable architect. Once a dancer herself she used her instrument entirely.

Ringmaster to a circus filled to capacity. Barely standing room mothers, awed by the military grace, their daughters, minding. Olga the keeper of time and human metronome, shouted and cajoled, levitating the floor, had the piano doing jumping jacks. And everywhere girls leaping past each other without collision. 

At 3:00 Tanya would start our class. Guiding those without skirts and ballet slippers. We modern ragamuffins into a circle of pretend. We took our starting positions. The scratches giving way, and tucked our heads and legs in to our bodies. Not standing our first position, but on the floor, making ourselves into little uni-pods. Seeds. 

Tchaikovsky 33 rpm on the suitcase phonograph gave us a choice to grow and move or not. Some days I would not feeling like rooting even. And I might just listen, feel the floor and my heart.  

In the wind and storm of the electric fan. I would raise my limbs, my branches, finding the pull to move within without anyone telling me when or what to do. 

Kukuiolomo, the park in the sky.

I played fast and loose with Honey Girl’s life. Thinking I could take her and her girls up to the chicken park in the sky, Kukiolomo. While we prepared for the crew of Termite Men and tenting.

On the second day, I checked on them twice. Third morning I brought the cage with me. Worried that someone might take her, she is a pure breed. A green egg layer. 

No Honey Girl. 

An entire valley of chickens but not Honey Girl responded when I called her name. 

I bought her freedom five years ago. Saw her stuffed in a cage with two others. Not even poultry farming foot room. 25 dollars for all three. They were handed to me in a feed bag. I let them out in the car. And when we got home, I opened the door for them first.

Thinking they would disperse. But she stayed, even when her sister drifted away. John says (to make me feel better) with a flock of lesbian hens patrolling and touring the neighborhood, he sees her. 

Our Hawaiian neighbor warned us. Without a cage she would leave with the first rooster who tried to roust her. 

But she stayed and ruled the yard. Cats twice her size would stand down at a bowl of cat food. Piercing screams communicated the desire for an apple banana or an interloper. 

Black Kitty was absolutely smitten. A cat in love with a chicken. Wherever she was, he was parked in the shade close, watching. When she toured the garden he walked behind, a respectful distance. A knight in shining armor, once when she got caught behind a fence, Black Kitty jumped over to gently usher her out. 

John says she could be brooding. I am going to keep looking for her. I want her to be free closer to me. Where I can watch her the way Black Kitty did when he was alive. 

One person on the internet summed up animal lovers and activists: they think they are god! I have wondered if I am trying to control life itself. But am just left having to accept that I have done a sad job in my assignment.

It rains inside. But

Our house is old. A step to the shed so rotten it collapses under John’s boot, termite damage. But we stay for the garden and trees I awake to.

Our bedroom window faces a jungle. A monkey pod tree so towering and wide it shelters six different yards and cities of birds. Next to it, a mango tree, when fruiting, if the cats don’t get them, a mice colony. And on the the other side an avocado tree. Wedged in between tall bamboos that creak and moan.  

Massive prehistoric fronds trim the avocado tree like Christmas lights. A tripod for sunbathing. Forming a lace canopy weaving together the tops. Superhighways of connection. I shimmied up once and untangled the Tarzan vines, ripping them down. Now the tree drips fat sweet fruit in thanks. 

The first thing I notice when I wake up, in the dark. The warm breeze. The birds who apartment in the trees. Singers. The yellow masked Myna Bird. A theatrical bird, not meant for walk on parts. Movement on the ground, drunken. Teeter-tottering. 

The Shama’s song always in the thick of heated debate. Politics, arias. Black masks and orange bellies. Elegant stealth fliers with long sleek tails. 

The red headed Cardinals squeak like drug store baby dolls. Sweet chattering air toys. Fearless getting to food, they travel in pairs and will land straight into a flock of doves and chickens to partake in seed. The cats can only dream of catching them. 

Zebra Doves and Spotted Nape Doves are in the majority. One neighbor in an attempt to singlehandedly curb their population sets up a cage, a trap. He says the Hawaiians say they are good eating. And he wants to try frying. I get caught red handed on his property lifting the cage.