Southern Literary Festival, More or Less

A Night With the Poets


garten-gg via pixabay

Poets will sing from the tatters of old books, until we listen to them, and then they will go on singing.

Some polite clapping for Whitman, of course. He was perfectly sensibly senseless; everybody said so, at least everybody that was there, and if you were a person and you were there, then you were allowed to be right about poetry, some of the time. Whitman seems mildly disgruntled as he steps away from the podium. 

I don’t take a shot but feel tipsy all the same, then continue not drinking and getting even drunker. I was scared of this, I was scared of, I was scared. I had just wanted to talk about poetry, and now I’d shaken cold hands with elevator music. 

“Are you ready to read?” buzzes through my ears at some point, like the stale crumbs of ambiance. Now I’m at the podium. 

“No,” I reply, into the mic. Then, to be polite, I add, “No, sir.” Then, to be polite-er, I stick tape over my mouth and return to my seat. Speech throbs forever after. 

This set-up lasts twenty-one years before, finally, I blow out a candle, kick off my shoes and one sock (they didn’t match anyway) and cartwheel through glass into a motel pool. Chlorine tastes like aqua but not quite blue. A fruit roll-up if it was liquefied. 

A hairy arm breaks through the cloud of aquamarine above me, rough palm colliding with my own wrinkled one. I ascend. My lungs meet air for the first time, and they seem to get along. 

YAWP,” says Whitman. 

“Push sea push,” says Stein.

And next thing I know we’re crashing through the fence, splinters and sweat clinging to our skin. They blindfold me; all I know is we’re jolting one way, then the next. They don’t seem to mind when I collide with a light post, but the wind does kiss my boo-boo, make it better. 

“- man in the -” says Dickinson, and it’s surprisingly straightforward of her. We pick up moonshine (after first trying desperately for hours to resurrect Michael Jackson). 

“If I said ‘red leather, yellow leather’ repeatedly, would that be a poem?” I ask the crowd of dark cloaks and flickering candles surrounding me. At some point, we all ended up in the woods, lying across leaves and moss and soft, padded dirt.

In reply, there’s a burp that ruffles a few neighboring hoods. 

If someone pukes on me, I think, and then I think, oh, and then I write a poem, and then I sneeze. I might be getting the order mixed up, there. “Thank you!” “Bless you!” 

I made a blood pact swearing not to tell you that I made a blood pact, but I also swore away from secrets, so. Make of that what you will. We dunked ourselves in lake water, and algae tastes better than chlorine except for when they rush you to the ER. Thankfully, all they did was tell me to walk it off. I made a blood pact swearing to walk it off. I don’t think they really wanted me to. “Achoo!

We sang a ditty for Robin Williams, and I think we sacrificed Pluto (sorry about that one; you’ll be a planet again, I promise). I counted two stars then got bored. Philip Sidney says I forgot one, but what does he know? 

Anyway, then they lay me down on a bed of roses, straight Carrie Underwoodedededed it. Anyway, and then I Nemo-from-Finding’d it, anemonemonemone—that’s a poem. Anyway, T.S. Eliot told me my brain is what London sounds like, and I realized we’re all little in over our heads, and they all cried “Oh Captain! My Captain!” 

And then I had a conference the next day.