In the the last few days of February, Rafael Zepeda read at Gatsby Books in Long Beach. The bookstore reserved the night for an open-mic poetry night in which he was the featured poet. Before he read, others in attendance were invited to come up on stage and read their own poetry. Rows of white light bulbs webbed the edges of the bookstore and dangled on the stage behind the poets.
I don’t remember much from that night, at least not from the others who read. I didn’t arrive at the bookstore early enough to get a seat, so instead I stood in the back. It was very difficult for me to pay attention when someone read their poetry. Not because I had to stand, Gatsby Books is small enough that I was still able to get a good view from where I stood, but because quite a few people near me and even others further in the back were having conversations. Also, since the bookstore was still “open” for business an occasional customer would happen to come in and add to the already annoying commotion at the cash register. Despite all that, when the time came for Rafael to read, everyone respectfully listened in silence.