I’m So Happy ‘Cause Today I Found My Friends (They’re In My Head).

15 Feb

The fun part about writing these recollections a good month or so after they happened? Realizing full well the permeability of memory. Even trying my hardest to get the details just right, I always look back on these entries and shake my head, usually with a smile, at all I’ve gotten wrong. It’s just as Basho suggests: traversing the internal and external roads are very much alike, and accepting flux keeps ya sane.

When I said I slept soundly my first night in Seattle, I meant after the two hours or so I spent sipping rum and frantically trying to compose my set, singing loudly enough for Daemond to hear me two floors up. I was exhausted from my journey from Van, but I was also petrified at the thought of disappointing Seattle. I’d felt a similar terror before Vancouver, but this was worse – the worst I’d felt since my sudden Urbana feature about a year ago, when I was so nauseous and dizzy I could barely lift my head off my arms. So I shuffled songs and poems around, picked things up and dropped them, until finally my body absorbed the basic logic of what I’d put together.

Earlier that night, Karen and Daemond expressed mild surprise that touring poets feel so intimidated before their Seattle features. Well folks, for years Seattle has consistently turned out poets of the highest caliber whose work is respected on the page, but who can also represent with pride at any national-level competition. Seattle is also, as Daemond himself pointed out, one of the only scenes in the country (if not the only scene) where all the poets on the team tend to be firmly planted in adulthood. Grown folks who’ve been around aren’t the easiest to please.

I spent a couple more hours the next day tightening things up, then watching movies (She’s Gotta Have It and The Hangover) and For the Love of Ray J, because I didn’t know how to change the channel on Inti and Daemond’s swanky TV.

***

INTERLUDE: What Is Blood? (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)

Debilitating cramps struck me this morning. Standing made me dizzy with pain. This hasn’t happened to me in a while, probably because I’m dry for the now, but accustomed to drinking fairly heavily; alcohol seems to act as a blood thinner or relaxant of some kind. Anyhow, I thought it was cool. One of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton, died yesterday, and I read her book of poems, Blessing the Boats, in memoriam. Clifton writes what may be the most moving uterus verse I’ve read. I especially like the poem below because, as a single girl uninterested in bearing children, I try to always celebrate the arrival of my blood, no matter how painful or messy it may be. [For the record, I have no rights to this poem besides the existential.]

to my last period

well girl, goodbye,
after thirty-eight years.
thirty-eight years and you
never arrived
splendid in your red dress
without trouble for me
somewhere, somehow.

now it is done,
and i feel just like
the grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn’t she
beautiful? wasn’t she beautiful?

***

Daemond and I headed to the venue early, early.

Said venue.

This gave me a lot of time to feel sick to my stomach, take a little nap, and stare dolefully at empty chairs while Daemond stayed busy doing twelve things or so.

Empty chairs, oooooooh.

In due time folks showed, however, in force. The venue was full of poets I knew and didn’t, and Civilians too, you know. My sister Aliah came through with a couple of her friends. Karen and Tara showed up, though they didn’t read. Jack McCarthy did, however, and unleashed my four-chambered monster as he always does.

Mild-mannered? Think again!

Daemond read D. Silence’s “Dance”, a pleasant reminder of Doug’s poetic dexterity.

Daemond reading.

I also got to hear Sara Brickman’s excellent sacrificial poem, plus Dane Kuttler’s muscular throwdown during the slam. And really cool work from a couple of folks I’d never heard, ever.

Dane bringing the noise.

You’re prolly getting tired of hearing this over and over, but my feature was awesome. I planned a special Seattle tribute, using grunge songs in my set to salute the place, and the crowd enjoyed it muchly. It was here that I encountered my favorite audience member of the entire tour: a ladykins in the front row who enthusiastically sang along with me, even picking up my slack when I dropped the lyrics to “Black Hole Sun”.

How are these girls so cool? How do they know all the lyrics?

The set ended with a standing ovation (thanks to Tara!). Post-show was the best ego trip, damn. Tara specifically loved “The Behemoth Feasts”, my soft-spoken poem about elephants. Karen said my feature was “even better than [she’d] expected,” which I choose to take as an awesome compliment, *wink*, and Jack really liked me, too. Not a damn thing better than pleasing excellent poets.

Sara Brickman and I commenced with the beer drinking for the remainder of the show (she is adorable when she’s tipsy, y’all).

See?

But Daemond and I ultimately decided to head back to the house, watch some movie, and call it an early night. I don’t remember what we talked about on the car ride home. Don’t remember which movie we watched. But when I reach back into time, I remember Sara’s giggle. Karen’s little smile.

There it is!

Tara’s burning eyes.

Just like that.

Jack’s brow furrowed with appreciation. I can feel exactly the euphoria and satisfaction I knew that night, that same triumph and acceptance, and the same gratitude to Daemond for inviting me in and being my friend.

I hope I never forget these things. I believe in telling these stories and writing them down. I believe in the importance of remembering love, keeping it close wherever I go. I suppose that’s one reason why I do this. My, what big words I have? The better to love you with, my dear. The better, the better to remember you.

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