Tuesday, March 08, 2011

my poem REACH live at the Loft Literary Center

The EQ show last Thursday at the Loft with Idris Goodwin, Lisa Brimmer and Ed Bok Lee was a great reminder for me of how powerful and important spoken-word poetry can be.  So much brilliant, transformative stuff in there.  Here's one of two poems that I did that night.  The other one will be part of a special post coming soon.


1. On the first day of school, we make a list of the characteristics of a good poet. But this is not a poem about poetry so all of the desks are empty, ipod earbuds dangling like dead flowers. I am alone at the chalkboard and there is only one bullet point on that list: not talent, not hard work, not education… ambition.

2. We are speedometers. Usually cruising along at 20 miles per hour. A surprise birthday party bumps you up to 30. A car accident, maybe 40. Being shot at: 200. Most of us live our lives between zero and sixty. What do you think a thousand tastes like?

3. My grandfather hates it when people use the word “awesome” to describe things that are barely above average. Like “dude that new episode of Glee was awesome,” or “this new Drake song is awesome” or “honeycrisp apples are the most awesome apples there are.” “God is awesome,” my grandfather would say. And he is not religious.

4. Make no mistake: this is a holy war. Beams shot from death rays into satellites and back down. Propaganda lining our cages. Six billion fingers on the button.

5. I paid five dollars. Fifteen empty bar stools. A singer knee deep in the stage. And if she were just a little more pretty and a little less beautiful, we’d swallow her, smiling, we’d hang her in constellation. Confuse us with gibberish and we’ll call you visionary. Repeat to us the slogans we already agree with and we’ll call you revolutionary. Do me a favor: make some noise. She understands, that is no difficult thing to convince 100 people to scream. That it is no victory to entertain children with sugar water and magic tricks. That it is nothing, to pry a smile from the soft, dull face of America. But she does not want our smiles. She wants to dig into the wet, grey wilderness behind them.

6. An artist—and we are all artists—is one part clown and one part cleric. Our work is one part entertainment and one part revelation. We are all foot soldiers in the war between giving the people what they want and giving the people something they don’t yet know they want. Between Facebook and face. Between voting once every four years and putting your name on the ballot. Between writing a love poem and screaming that love poem in the Mall of America rotunda while she’s walking out of Forever 21. Between running away, and running.

There is such a thing as awesome. It stalks in the deep, seldom-traveled back woods of culture. You might need a machete and flack jacket to get there. You might need to break a sweat. But it’s THERE. So don’t paint my house white and tell me it’s heaven. Don’t bring me a sack of beans and tell me they’re magic. Bring me magic. Paint every inch of our bodies heaven. On the first day of school, do not make a list of the characteristics of a good poet. Make a list of the people who will weep when you die.

7. We are speedometers. We are remote controls. We are dollars in tip jars in dive bars. We’ve seen what they have to offer. It’s great. It’s beautiful. And it… is not nearly enough.

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