Here are two poems I read at Parkside Lounge at an evening celebrating the great poet, John Sinclair.
Several years ago, a poet said to me: Write the poem that will get you in trouble. So, I immediately thought about the first time. Freshman year of high school. I was still practicing Sylvia Plath’s name on my tongue. I was falling in love with Bob Dylan and Lou Reed and I had enough sadness to melt the sun into a puddle of tears. I read a poem of mine in front of a room full of strangers during a school assembly. Teachers who did not know me started worrying for my life. The guidance counselor called me in. Everyone worried about me and my safety. Do you want to hurt yourself? Do you have a plan?
I had no idea the power of words until that moment. I didn’t exactly get in trouble, but I did get noticed.
There was that time I thought I hated men, so I wrote a poem that would taint my breath for years. It was one of the first poems I ever read at an open mic. Strangers called me angry.
The one I wrote about the only boy I ever loved. It didn’t get me in trouble, but those words haunted my palms for years.
I’ve written poems that have outed my sexuality, my identity, various jobs I’ve accrued that I’ve left off resumes. I was never looking to get into trouble. Instead, I just wanted to feel heard. Like that first time at the assembly when finally people started to see me.
Words clarify the blurriness of our existence.
I smuggle poems all the time: in my pocket, against my hips, stuck to my cracked heels. I’ve swallowed so many that I have a permanent ache in my gut. I’m not looking to harass anyone’s eyes or brains. I’m only looking to cause a commotion with your one-way thoughts. I want to twist your mind into questioning what you think has only one answer to.
OK, maybe I am looking into getting in just a little bit of trouble.