I attended last night’s poetry slam at Kellogg Hubbard Library and read a couple of poems. Although I could have done a better job (i.e. I gave a horrible reading), I’m glad I went. I met some new people, heard some cool poems, and received some nice encouragement, like that from slam meister Geoff Hewitt who also recommended a book of poems by Aram Saroyan he thought I would enjoy (from Black Sparrow Press, incidentally, which published much of Charles Bukowski‘s works, all of which I have read and have been influenced by).

But mostly I’m glad I went because I did horribly. I hate “failing,” but I hate “not progressing” more and the two are unavoidably linked. My goal isn’t to “not fail,” but to “fail better.”

So now in the aftermath (or afterglow) I’m thinking of how I can improve such failing. I’m thinking I maybe should have read the sonnet I’d written instead of the beat-inspired poem about abortion. Or maybe just read the latter better.

I’m thinking Warren (WMRW Radio Annual Call-in & Live Poetry Slam!) is too far for me to travel tonight since I have to do my eking grocery clerk gig until 6:30 pm, but I might be able to do the call-in thing, where I would have another wonderful opportunity to fail.

I’m thinking the second poem I read was better received, despite my flawed performance.

And I’m thinking I’ll share that second poem below:


Ah, Christ, when did the road
to Purdue University become so paved? Did I miss
a memo, a leaflet, a constitutional amendment
that would have given me better directions? Or maybe,
I just cannot read so well, the coffee
and tear-stained map unfolding into social hieroglyphics
foreign to me.
Eighteen years old and already lost at sea,
I watch
in my hindsight mirror as my best friend
takes a bite of an apple
I can’t taste. Don’t want to taste, actually, the snake in me
having an altogether different purpose as my desires surface,
but still, I clutch the wheel like I’m in control and don’t feel
anything inside me. I see
the sign saying 465 Exit Straight Ahead.
an arrow going the wrong narrow way, I think,
but take it, anyway. I always do. Sometimes
you have to go a little South, after all, in order to fly North,
and in 1987 leaving Anderson is no exception.
The bypass
wraps around Indianapolis like intestinal machinery
and craps us out onto I-65.

Weren’t there horses before machines? Wild
hopes running, roaming free? Full of fever
I reach
over to touch my best friend’s knee, but instead catch
myself and turn
the radio also on. So many stations, but all I get
is static. My friend hand’s me a cassette,
saying, “Why don’t you play
this?” I
and the greedy tape deck takes it. How great
it is to be inserting something somewhere! Rush
ushers Tom Sawyer in. I look in the backseat for Finn,
but all I see is a backpack containing my paint
by number SAT scores
promising the future is yours,
if I do what I am told.
But I grow old, I grow old,
whether or not my trousers are rolled
and I want the goddam brass ring
Oh, I don’t mean bling
You can have that sort of thing
I mean the luxury to be me
To have that kind of clarity.
But instead I have a welcome packet and a half-filled casket as dumb
and dumber academic junk remind me I was sunk
before I had a chance to swim. Over
to my right, a Deer Crossing sign warns me to watch out. How
odd. For the headlights are always on me,
and I think that I must be
the only one frozen.

You can make good time going nowhere.
Like ice, high school wore thin.
It had been a motionless affair.
Yet locked in place I fell through,
with a poker face pocked with rue.
And oh, it was so irrelevant.
All hail holy Thomas Covenant. I was, I am, a bloodguard beyond repair
with little worth protecting, the predetermined physics
of my body only outwardly observing the laws
of organic chemistry prevalent in the halls.
But the need to heed the societal call
to be a cookie cutter
made Engineering seem full of bitter
sweet butter.
But I wonder,
as I take us off the highway,
to gas up at a red and yellow Shell station
offering a free car wash, what
the real catch is. My friend
comes out of the washroom as, my tank all filled up,
I pull the nozzle out, careful not to let it drip,
and slip it back into the slot where it belongs, where it’s supposed to go,
the right hole being so very important you know.
“Do you have to go?” he asks.
Things left unsaid I shake my head
and get back behind the safety of the wheel,
Where in the world does someone like me
have to go?