Nailed it


Well, I did it.
Freaked out the entire day, built the entire thing up in my mind and then at around 5 pm on my way home, I remembered that once (for my last job) I had to go in front of an entire audience on live television with a memorized introduction of a few art students we had sponsored. And it did that too and the words I spoke for that event weren’t nearly as close to me as the words I spoke last night. I was OK, I kept telling myself, I knew those poems.
The flyer said to show up early, so I got there a half hour ahead of the event and immediately regretted being so punctual. NO ONE had signed up yet. I had to find Aaron milling around the back, setting up speakers and basically made him start a sign up sheet. A little overzealous?! So needless to say, I was the huge gangly nerd poet who came with her “I <3 Poetry" t-shirt and her trapper keeper. Whatever. I made sure I looked hot at least and not too dressed up like I was trying too hard. I had my poet boots on and black pants and my favorite black tank top from a brewery here and then a tweed vest. And my purple hoop earrings and a beautiful bird necklace my boss got me for my birthday. I looked like me and that's all I wanted. I only managed one beer at a place called "The Lost Leaf" across the street. Roosevelt Row where the book store (Lawn Gnome Publishing) is located is an up and coming strip of old bungalow homes they turned into really artsy, eclectic stores and restaurants. They have a first Friday here every month. It's a cool little stretch of downtown Phoenix. I had a half hour, so I sipped my beer, texted Lindsey and Pat for company while some drunk guy at the bar yelled at me for being on my phone and updating my Facebook status instead of socializing. I said, "I can't hear you, You'll have to text me." Pat was too anxious for me and had to stay home. He gets nervous watching me do things like this, he got nervous watching me play intramural softball in PA with a bunch of drunk, fat men, but I'm glad I did this alone. It was something I needed to do for myself. Technically, I didn't go first. The MC Aaron aka the owner of Lawn Gnome laid something down. I think he does a lot of slam poetry as well... I got a really dark beer, a porter, so having not eaten much that day and downing a dark beer, I was pretty OK going up there. I didn't trip even though the stage looked like the Little Rascals banged it out with toy hammers (Aaron's words) and the step was a bowing blue milk crate. There were about 12 people there, but more trickled in as the night progressed. I read "Love Story" probably too fast and it was all really blurry, but I didn't stumble and I looked up and Lindsey told me that my ANGRY YELLING voice is everyone else's normal voice, so I needed to ANGRY YELL and I tried to do that... I was up then down. Next was an older black poet who sounded like Morgan Freeman and looked a little like him too and he was so calm up there, he had a little chap book in his hands and a straw fedora hat. He was talking easily about his inspirations and poems and clearly he was a veteran. Someday, I'll get there maybe - have a little more stage presence. Damn. Then another man with a "Kill Your TV" shirt played a thumb piano... Then a really awkward, might be a serial killer, comedian came on... and after a whole round of people, I went back up again to do "Coin Purse." This one went better, I think. When I got off stage the MC said all the poets in the audience were smiling and wishing they had come up with the line "Love is why I scour phone booths;/ toss couch cushions; steal all the coins/ in gas station charity jars/ for enough money to buy your heart back." He said that was brilliant. And like a little girl, I was beaming and farting rainbows the entire way back to my seat because I was so god damn nervous the whole day and just drank a really dark beer really fast. I only brought two poems, but I had another one ready on my phone if I needed it. And I promised that if I got back up again that night I was going to talk about the poem and try to be a little more social and not such a goombah, but we only did two rounds, so I'll have to save that for next time. And I'll do a next time. I wasn't the best, but I wasn't the worst and as everyone was leaving Morgan Freeman passed me, smiled and said "really good show." I almost hugged him and asked him to be my Grandpa. But I was cool, said "Thanks so much! You too!" I sat in my car after the show for about 15 minutes with the engine on. The city glowing in the background, the Lawn Gnome sign flashing BOOKS in neon. I wanted to hold the moment, collect myself, embed the street and the memory. Over a month ago, on my birthday, I set a goal to do something that really really scared me. And I did it. I fucking did it. I imagined all of you there. I even kept Claire in the palm of my hand with a rock she gave me from her beach in Dunedin. Thank you all for sitting in the back row.

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