Open-Mic Night, #97

What you dream: that the venue
will be packed, that all the hype
alleged to precede the event,
rumors of nationally
known artists, limited tickets,
seating that must must must be
pre-purchased may mean you’ve
not wandered again into
the bowels of poetry,
a vacant storefront
transformed into a coffee
and internet dive, the sad
truths of performance.

But the word depends not
on the venue, depends
not on the hype, depends
only on the voices
revved up and ripe, ready
to lay it on the line.

What you fear: the promoters
running around like chickens
clucking on cell phones calling
the ones with the microphone,
the alternative drummer,
the people headed along
highways in the opposite
direction, you fear that this
won’t be a hotbed of true
poetry, poignant language
strung together artfully
in ways that makes the commute
along the highway worthy.

But the word depends not
on the venue, depends
not on the hype, depends
only on the voices
revved up and ripe, ready
to lay it on the line.

What you see: wide eyed newborn
never touched a mic, first one
there just on time, jittering
over pages, what to read,
how to string together two
pieces to have enough words
to reach the lower limit
of time, everyone mingling
like friends, and you, the stranger
come to visit, with nothing
much new to add of interest,
perfectly stale pages
feeling anything but fresh.

But the word depends not
on the venue, depends
not on the hype, depends
only on the voices
revved up and ripe, ready
to lay it on the line.

What you hear when the mic drops:
rhymes and rhythms from something
old, something you knew back home,
back in college, back before
it all got taught out of you,
something they’ll never honor
in your MFA, the thump
of heartbeats thumped on a bass,
the rolling sweat and bubbling
up of cadence and meaning,
sound finally making sense
and good love for your off-beat
ten-degree cooler pages.

Yes the word depends not
on the venue, depends
not on the hype, depends
only on the voices
revved up and ripe, ready
to lay it on the line.

What you discover: that words
are not words but jute tied up
between people, vocal chords
braided together in knots
of harmony, one painter,
one poet, one voice pushing
itself out into the world,
bent over, down on its knees
praying to a god who said first,
In the beginning create,
and once created, then speak
and once spoken, then clap for
the beauty of this garden.

Yes, the word depends not
on the venue, depends
not on the hype, depends
only on the voices
revved up and ripe, ready
to lay it on the line.

What you dreamt meant nothing
in the light of how you pray.

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Author:

A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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