A few weeks ago, I rose from my seat and walked to an open mic. It wasn’t my first time up—and, happily, I can say I don’t freeze up with public speaking. Moreover, I’d prepared not one, but two poems on-topic for the evening meeting.
Instead of launching into them, I deferred to a familiar “pause button” that registers somewhere below my ribcage. “Nope,” it said.
You know when you’re driving in an unfamiliar city, and for whatever reason you’re trusting your instincts rather than your smart phone or GPS? Anybody still brave enough to do that?
Perhaps you add basic dead reckoning to past experiences, negotiating toward a performance venue, or the downtown hotel, or the restaurant district. More times than not, such reconnoitering serves me well.
Or how about this? You’re entering a building—any public building—and experience a brief catch inside, a caution, not unlike hearing a distant whistle, or catching the scent of a struck match. You might hesitate, look around and choose to stay. If the unspoken wariness persists, you might back out and reassess.
The insanity around the mad-dog mongrel in the White House has worn away nearly all all my registers of acceptable, feasible, conscionable standards. And yet we’re subject to the fallout: personally, psychically, internally. Our own integrity as citizens has been shattered. Especially if the state where you live shows up as “red” in political maps.
I first placed my hand over my heart and pledged allegiance to the yew-nited states when I was five years of age. The next year, I’d pledge my soul to the Lord My God In Heaven, followed by eight years of parochial school. Eventually I lived in Canada for awhile, returned happily and proudly to America and voted at each national election.
Now, when I hear from Canadian friends, I’m so freaking defensive, it’s possible I may actually need to apologize for my furious response to their casual, distant comments around the Clown Chief.
Back to the current time: I couldn’t share my clever, double-edged lines of poetry with the gathered roomful of people last month. I’d cobbled tight-fit, astute, laser points of observation—the work was strong enough, for certain.
But that check inside my spirit caused me to arch my back, feel vertebrae slip back into position. With intake of breath, I wanted to let go, far from me, that witty, accurate take on the trump. Didn’t want to pick through the detritus in his wake. Don’t want to scoop up his leavings for any purpose whatever, least of all as building material for poetry.
Instead, I spoke a bit about harboring ugliness, then releasing it in ways that felt both satisfying and non-violent. And I whipped out a 4’ long paper tie I’d painted red, and cut it into shards, from the podium.
I suggested that we all watch what we allow to ignite us, and find what we need to dispel deceitful, hideous experiences. “Keep yourselves healthy, don’t get contaminated with absurd thinking, however you need to do it! And: STAY WOKE!”
There was mixed response. But a few voices in the crowd echoed, “Stay woke!”
I definitely am writing more around these insane American days, but I’ll watchdog where it’s distributed. And not harbor the level of rage that’s totally justifiable.