To remedy that, I began my 20-minutes at the mic with this, um, shall I say, excoriation:
My Deterrent Example
"...and following the wrong god home we may miss our star."
I followed the wrong god home.
Or was it the wrong dog?
I panted after his wagging tail,
dog or god — didn’t matter.
led on by his trickster charms —
All it got me was trouble
and highbrow kibble, pricey vodka
at the bar, vacations
that verged on paradise, doubled
for a time as real life.
But it wasn’t in my nature,
after all, to worship
either canine or divine.
His altars and icons belonged
to no heaven I could trust
beyond our abbreviated marriage —
its disillusion, its dissolution.
O my fraudulent idol, my expired deity —
all your coffers rattle empty now.
Your gold is a crumpled scrap
dumped-out at love’s dead-end —
not home, not sweet,
no god — you — and undeniably wrong.
I'll say, that blew all the bad wind from my sails in a jiffy.
The rest of the reading was most uneventful.
The (small) audience was unreactive, silent, serious.
I've given many readings over the years, and when I encounter an audience like this, I usually shorten the whole thing, skip past poems, get the damn thing done.
But Thursday night, I thought, fuck it. I'm going to ignore the silence coming from the "crowd" and just lean into my work. Pretend no one's there.
And it was actually kind of fun, leaning into the microphone, feeling the weight of my words fill the spaces in the room.
All week I've been thinking about the young woman in the video in my previous post, thinking about her confidence and self-possession — a gift to own at such a young age. And the message of her poem, the notion of women "making space" for the men in their lives, has nagged at me all week, tapped me on the back, made me pay attention and listen to the video again for its bold truth.
Somewhere, in some pile (probably in my basement) is a poem I wrote when I was in my early 30's, titled "Becoming Invisible", about this same subject. Tomorrow I might hunt for it, bring it out to the light and let it celebrate a 25th birthday.