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Steve Levin

Ayo Sharpe-Mouzon performs one of her poems Sunday during the "Healing Through Poetry and Music" open mic at the Center for Spiritual Living.

As far as calendar linchpins go, Sunday was a key day.

Hindus will celebrate Vaisakhi on Monday and Hanuman Jayanti on Tuesday. Buddhists on Monday commemorate the birth, awakening and passing away of Buddha Gautama. Passover begins at sundown Monday night. Easter is less than a week away. And for all the secularists, the Masters golf tournament final round was on TV.

It also happened to mark the near midway point of Kern County National Poetry Month, and a dozen souls decided to take advantage of the "Healing Through Poetry and Music" open mic at the Center for Spiritual Living north of downtown on Eureka Street.

The sparse crowd did not diminish the enthusiasm.

The Rev. Barbara White, the spiritual leader of the Center, opened the afternoon with a prayer.

Poetry, she said "is one of the highest forms of praise and prayer."

Portia Choi read a series of her poems from her book, "Sungsook: Korean War Poems" recalling her early childhood in South Korea during the Korean War, when her family was forced to live as refugees in its own country. The poems she shared were the memories of a child in war's midst: legless veterans carried on piggyback and the candies she got from a street vendor. Another poem chronicled the experience of a Bakersfield veteran who lost four friends in the Hadong Pass ambush in 1950.

Choi later led a brief workshop on poetry writing.

The wife-and-husband team of Ayo Sharpe-Mouzon and John Mouzon included dance, poetry, song and music during a 30-minute presentation. Sharpe-Mouzon has been writing poetry and acting since her youth, and has taught poetry in public schools around the country.

Sunday, she shared poems from her "How I Met my Perfect Mate" series on her CD while accompanied by her husband on the djum djum drum.

"A thankful heart is close to the riches of the universe," Sharpe-Mouzon chanted.

She shared with the audience the impetus behind her poem "Love Loves You Back," that love must be a two-way street.

"Love loves you back," she recited. "And that's a natural fact."

Steve Santaella, his wife Esperanza and their four children were in the audience. As members of the church, they'd already attended services on Sunday morning. But Santaella said he wanted his family to return for the open mic to be exposed to art.

"I want to interest my kids in poetry," Santaella said.

His 6-year-old son Michael had one question.

"What's poetry?" he asked.