Cc: Poetry Reading
What good is poetry anyway? Where's my love and who is she with tonight?
Why do I squint at 31?
I drink too much. Let it be known. But it's only to keep myself from losing what I had before.
There's a stack of newspapers. The top of everything: two young men carrying one of their elders on a stick of bamboo stretched across their shoulders. And she's sitting in a pail that was probably made for water.
Imagine. So many people complain about so many things.
What if they had to leave their country behind in order to go somewhere where they didn't belong?
Shit on you! You despots. You tyrants. You businessmen with empty words. You're filled with worms.
And so, poets gather on Sunday nights to read their poetry to the walls.
The lights flicker in the darkness. I'm friends with the bartender because I understand what it's like to start a 10-hour shift when you're yawning for freedom. I'm tired of it all. It's easier to speed-read newspapers and magazines alone in my room with some coffee or beer and hand-rolled cigarettes and a pair of headphones.
I'll get rid of everything. That's what I'll do.
I get there. And it's early. Unusual for my badge.
I'm typically the one to always be late. Or so I've been told. And that's fine. Because I no longer care about what I've told, or who's doing what. What do I care? The dream is eternal. All the festering for remedial nomenclature. The entire Earth is sick and dying. The Great Barrier Reef? It'll turn stark white. And the sharks will swallow what's left of the Australian sunset.
We're supposed to be reading poetry.
The leader sets up the candles on the tables. Leader? I meant the Host. He's got a French beret. And his toenails protrude from the infinity of his soul. Who knew that the doorman to your late-night bar was a poet? Maybe the trees read poetry. Maybe your little dreams you keep tucked under you forefinger are awaiting the neck of your lover, somebody you left in your past. They never went away. Nothing ever really goes away.
I'm drinking beer. That's what I'm good at.
My brother gets there. "How do I get in?"
He waltzes in.
The room swooshes with a bassoon. The whores move in from their cornices of desultory orange peels.
Time is forever.
It's a god damn poetry reading. And we're some of the few people who've self-published their own material. Because who else is going to read it anyway?
That's the only real thought, here. Emanating from my brain. Drinking beer, after beer, after beer.
I tilt the bottle to the ceiling.
Nobody really cares about poetry. Nobody really cares about poets.
The Earth is heating up. And we're all breaking at the seams. My brother and I talk about it. He's growing a beard. It's like a gravelly rock path toward the backwoods of what he hid in his past. It's like skeletons popping out from the ground.
I say nothing. Because who am I to criticize what he wants to do to his face?
It's a shame. I'm talking to him like I'm some kind of history teacher. And he's listening to me, nodding along to my babbles. My babbling. He's a good brother, a good dude. He's got bright eyes. He's looking forward and backward at the same time.
"How do you do it?" I ask him, not really expecting a response.
"What are you talking about?"
The poetry reading begins.
The first guy reads from an Apple computer. He's got a white shirt, fancy. Beard. Gray mixed with paprika. He writes long poems. Or, he'd written them beforehand. Now he's reading them. To us.
"The Earth is a sentient semaphore shitstain. She's not really perturbed by the dysfunction of greed and guilt and beer bottles up her..."
(I'm going to write bad words. To you.)
Let's move on.
The next poet is an old guy. With glasses.
He looks out from over them. While reading shorter poems. Much shorter.
He's got a good right hook. That's all I can think about what he's saying into the microphone, underneath the lights.
I almost scream it out.
But I know better than that.
The third poet comes up. She's a well-respected lady with a husband who wears glasses.
I'm mildly surprised, yes. So many people came into the bar to listen to poetry. What's happening in the city of Philadelphia? What do the poets have to say? I'm staring at dreadlocks. I want to tell the person in front of me that they have a beautiful head of hair.
The lady reads her poems. She's intelligent, sensitive, loves dogs. Her husband is drinking beer.
A kid on the opposite end of the bar keeps laughing.
He laughs and laughs.
He's wearing an odd shirt. Like vibrant waves of red and orange. He's got a beard, too. He rubs his beard and laughs and he plays an invisible piano with his vocal chords.
The lady reading her poems asks how much time she's got left.
"Seven minutes..." the Host tells her.
She runs her hand through her hair.
The poetry reading becomes an open mic session. A few poets reading their poetry and the moon shines on the back of the glass of the bar as the bartender lies prostrate in some attic of unforeseen sadness. Damn, he must be a poet, too.
We're all poets.
Nobody wants to listen.
Finally, it's my brother's turn to read his poetry. He reads from a book he published himself.
When he reads, he rubs his beard.
"There used to be a pipsqueak cocker spaniel inside my bloodstream. But now I race boats of mice with my wrists cocked and ready to wrangle with the demons of my soul. I'm not afraid of death. I live with my head facing the clouds and the clouds speak to me, they say: Bruce Springsteen was a poet. Bob Dylan was a farce. And Superman wasn't even real. His cape was made out of fibers from volcanoes. I think writers are egotistical. Fuck this!"
He's done. And now it's my turn.
I get up there. I'm nervous. But it's okay. Nobody really gives a shit.
"I think Rosalita was made up for Bruce Springsteen to sell records. The mayor of Philadelphia is a coward. I know all my friends are really full of shit. The dead come back to life when we think about them. I used to be in love with the sweetest girl. When I turned my back, she morphed into a bat. Now she's hairy. And her dad thinks the stock market will keep him in raiment for the rest of his days. I hate business. Aristotle knew what he was talking about. Socrates. Plato. They were full of plundering, spiritual nonsense. I fell asleep one day and I never woke up. The grasslands of Africa get the most sun when the Earth is tilted toward Venus. Rosie, I miss you. Climb in my window when you can. Please. Have your hair dangling at your elbows. You smile at me and I melt into a thousand tidal waves, I'm pining for you always. You used to put on this red lipstick. Hot DAMN! You were a fiery moonlit bath of love! I'm lost without you, honey! Ride the wave of forever to my doorstep and tell me I'm what you need! What's that? Your mommy and daddy? Aw, shit! What do they know about poetry?"
The night concludes with me swiping my debit card between the eyes of the bartender.
"Sure, friend. I'm one of you, remember." I rub my elbow across the bar. "We're all just waiting to win the lottery. And daddy's here. He's right here in front of you. The whole wold's a light shining through endless space. It's a beautiful spectacle."
"What about greed," he retorts.
"Greed? What kind of callous remark..."
My brother grabs my arm.
"Bry, you've had too much to drink."
I grab his beard and yank.
"What'd you think, eh? How'd my poems go."
He grins at me, pretending to slash his wrists.
We leave the bar. Hollering in the night. He takes his love for life and uses it to bounce his voice in echoes around the alleyway while I dance and spin and singing at the top of my lungs I roar through the night, oblivious to what anyone thinks of me, speeding for tomorrow.
"I'll wait forever!" I scream. "I'll always believe in you!"
A bum with calloused fingers asks me for a dollar.
He isn't a poet.
Not even close.