“Childhoods Are a Blast Out of Hell”

Close up of cherry tree in bloom.When I was around three, I had a fever that caused me to hallucinate. I saw snakes. I screamed, “Vívoras, vívoras,” and tried to push away the (invisible) snakes. (Spanish was the first language I learned, though I can barely speak it anymore.)  I have the vaguest memory of this hallucination, though I think it’s a combination of vague memory plus imagination, since my mother often told me the story. In this vague memory, I see a huge, dark grey snake slithering over me, headed toward my face, its head significantly larger than my hand. Other snakes are crawling up the sides of my bed. Maybe it’s two, maybe three, that part isn’t as clear.

As a little kid, I often had a sore throat and fever, and I couldn’t talk because my tonsils would swell. When I was five, I had my tonsils taken out. In fact, I turned five the day of my surgery. All tonsillectomy patients got ice cream afterwards. I didn’t know it was standard procedure, so when they brought me a dish of vanilla ice cream, I thought it was in honor of my birthday. I felt so special, as I sat there in my hospital crib, merrily eating my ice cream, distracted for the moment from my fear and confusion.

After I finished my ice cream, a nurse came in and asked me, “Do you have to go potty?” I had no idea what she said. I didn’t understand much English. But I heard the word “potty”, and I thought she said “party”, because that’s pretty much how my mom pronounced “party”. My mom spoke to us kids in Spanish, but she threw in an English word here and there, which she pronounced with an accent. I had never heard the word “potty”, meaning “go to the bathroom”. My mom would ask, “Tienes que hacer?“.  That translates into, “Do you have to go,” with the implication of “to the bathroom”. My mom sometimes asked us in English, but she translated in literal terms, so she would say, “Do you have to make?” When I heard the nurse say “potty”, I assumed she was talking about my birthday and was asking me if I was going to have a party. I nodded. When I  nodded, what I really meant was, “Yes, there will be a party for my birthday. There will be cake and ice cream.” She brought me a bedpan. I thought it was a present. A kidney-shaped metal bowl? What was I supposed to do with this? I sat there and looked at it. She said, “Don’t you have to go potty?” I looked up at her, shook my head. “No, I don’t want a party, if this thing is my present. Just bring me ice cream, please.” These were more or less my thoughts, anyway. I was a timid child. I didn’t talk much, and if I did, it was barely above a whisper.

Bamboo plant and red wooden chair.When I was in sixth grade, my teacher asked me a question. He was tall, a six footer, with a loud, deep voice. In retrospect, I realize he was really a nice guy; he wasn’t mean. But he didn’t take any crap or nonsense, and he’d let you know in his big, booming voice. I was afraid of him. One time he asked me a question (about whatever subject we were focused on at the moment). The answer was “yes,” so I nodded. He wanted to make me talk, so he asked me another question. The answer was “no,” so I shook my head. He sat there a minute, looking at me. I sat there, looking back at him, cringing, terrified. Then he goes, “What if you couldn’t do this (he shakes his head), or this (he nods his head)?” I shrugged my shoulders. He burst out laughing, in his giant, booming voice, a guffaw. The class laughed. I drew my body in tighter, tried to shrink myself invisible. But I liked the feeling, actually, of making people laugh.

I’m reading Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski. It’s the only novel of his I never got around to reading. (I heard that Pulp, his final novel, didn’t do well. I don’t why. I love it.) I find this novel a little uncomfortable. It still has Bukowski’s dark humor, and I get the feeling he’s being a bit “hammy”, so I like it all right. But his difficult childhood was no joke. I suppose that’s why he developed a dark sense of humor. I knew a woman once who told me, “I think all childhoods are a blast out of hell.” I laughed when she said this. Most people used to look at her like she was nuts. She was just honest and unsentimental, and she had dark sense of humor. I liked her. She cracked me up. She was a bit eccentric. I lost track of her when a job relocated me. Another of my jobs from hell. Most the jobs I ever had in my life were hell. Sometimes life is hell. But it can be fascinating too, and sometimes a nice surprise comes your way when you least expect it.

I’m going to a party tonight. I’m not much of a party person. But the guy who invited me is a poet I met recently. He and his roommate are having a poetry party. A poet’s party. A poetry party for poets. I think only a poet would find that interesting. Sure, let’s see what the night holds.

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Brief Candle

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day; to Close-up of pink gladiolas.the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

(Note: I ignored line breaks, of course. It’s the words I’m focused on, not the form.)

If you know literature, you, Shirley, know the above quote. It’s from Macbeth.

I think about these lines a lot, rather often. I’ve read Macbeth at least four times. At least.

(Oh hell. I accidentally hit “Publish”. I wasn’t done yet. Let me continue:)

Photo of a field.A couple months ago, at a poetry reading, I heard a woman (won’t name her) read a poem about having a PhD, but because she is Mexican-American/Chicana/Latina, she complained in her poetry that people see her as a maid, or a nanny, that in academia, she was treated disrespectfully, brushed off by her colleagues, but that she was all that, she had it going on, she had her fucking PhD. Yesterday, I attended a poetry reading, and another PhD read his poem about being black, and that people looked at him with fear in their eyes, as they stereotyped him, fearing he might be a thief or some dangerous person riding the subway, even though he dressed in a suit and carried a briefcase.

I had no desire to bring out my fucking violin for them. These same two PhDs ignored me. But I don’t feel compelled to write a fucking poem about it. I have never felt compelled to write a poem about being stereotyped. Sure, it pisses me off, and sometimes it’s scary, because I don’t know what that other person is thinking, but it isn’t worth a poem. If anything, it’s time for me to pray, meditate, connect with a Higher Power, because being stereotyped sometimes frightens me and that makes me sad.

The truth is, we all stereotype each other in this world. We live in a world where paranoia runs rampant, and arrogance, and needy egos, and ignorance (no matter how educated you might be), and stupidity.

You can vote and elect any politician you want, it isn’t going change. Maybe a little bit, here and there, but in general it won’t. Politics isn’t going to save us. Religion isn’t going to save us. Governments and their armies, education, science and technology, nothing is ever going to “save us” from our own selves. We will always fret and strut, babble, and jabber, need, want, and then we will croak, bite the big one, lights out. Large planter with plant spliiling over, cascading down over the side..

I’ve heard it said they want to put chips into us, like they do our pets. Personally, I don’t like the idea of putting a chip in my pet, let alone in me. (Well, at the moment I don’t have a pet. Wish I did, but can’t here where I live, damnit.) They are wanting to make machines to take over our lives. I hear talk of wanting to eradicate diseases, even death. But life is supposed to be cyclical, not static. And I’d rather live with less machinery, less technology, as convenient as it makes our lives. And, sure, this is hypocritical of me, as here I am on this machine. I need this machine.

Is that what Frankenstein is getting at? Did Mary Shelley see potential dangers in science, with man attempting to play God?

I hope I live a long time, but I can’t fathom a “forever”. Who knows what this life is anyway? Maybe this experience is a process the spirit, the life force, goes through, and after it’s done here, it moves on to something else. I don’t mean like Heaven or Hell, or Limbo, for that matter. I mean something a human being is too limited to imagine, let alone know.

I’m not too sure what I am trying to get at. Sometimes I just can’t there. It’s too deep.

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New Love Poem (by Poet Dressed in Black)

Photoshopped image of Estela.

Estela

I sold a few chapbooks at my readings. Made a few ducats. It felt a little odd selling my art. But I can get used to it. Initially, reading in public felt odd. Now, I enjoy it.

Baruch described my poetry as “unique and on fire”, and described me as a “badass” poet. Ah, I like that. :D I’m positively appreciative. <3

Last Saturday, I read at a place called Magnet.

Audience at poetry reading at Magnet in San Francisco on April 12, 2014.

Audience at poetry reading at Magnet in San Francisco. (Photo credit to whomever took this. It wasn’t me.)

It was a good crowd. They kept coming, and eventually the place was packed. Magnet is a non-profit in the Castro that provides health services for gay men, but they also offer their space for artistic events.

Marquee at Magnet in the Castro in San Francisco.

Magnet in the Castro in San Francisco. (Credit to whomever took this photo.)

There was art on the back wall, some excellent charcoal sketches, beautiful portraits. (But behind us readers at the mic, there were flyers. I get a kick out of that, to have my picture taken with these flyers behind me. )

Art is subjective. I thought the portraits were beautifully done, though, for my taste, they were too technically precise. But they were amazing in the their technical precision. Charcoal sketches that looked like a photographs. Amazing. I, myself, prefer an element of avant-garde, something new and special. But avant-garde is also subjective, no?

Estela reading poem at Magnet in San Francisco.

Reading at Magnet in San Francisco. Photo by Carrie Gocker.

A poetry reading last Saturday, and another one Monday, and both left me feeling really good. Darn, I don’t have any pics of my Monday reading. I dressed in black, but wore a red scarf and red earrings, in honor of the eclipsed full moon, a Red Moon. There’s a poetry reading on Saturday, but I’m not scheduled to read. It’s going to be great, though. I’m really looking forward to it.

I wrote a love poem. Someone gave me a warm hug and said something lovely in my ear. Nothing flirtatious or anything, just a really awesome thing to say to me. I got to thinking about a story of ill-fated cosmic lovers, and wrote this poem.

When You Hold Me

When you hold me,
the moment is perfect,
as death,

your firm arms
cozy as a coffin.

I love your lies.
I close my eyes
and dream I drowned.

When you hold me,
my heart stops.

You croon bluesy jazz
in my ear,
and I hear worms
hum a tune.

When you hold me,
I’m home ,
as a corpse in in a box.

Maybe you’re a reflection
of a cosmic connection,

maybe you’re a hallucination.
My sweet love,
each time we meet,
you kill me.

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New Bag for an Old Bag

Poster for Donde Esta Mi Genter Poetry reading event

Poster for April Poetry Reading Event

I’m an old bag now. Ain’t no spring chicken. Chronologically speaking. But as far as I’m concerned, my life is just starting. I feel great. I’m excited. I’m happy.

I’ve sacrificed. I’ve suffered. I’ve struggled. I’ve worried. I’ve panicked. I sometimes still worry a little, and I’m still sacrificing, and on occasion I panic, and, well, sure, I’m still struggling. But I no longer suffer. I am acquiescent. I know fate has the final word. All I can do is do what I can do. Then just chill. Que será será, what will be will be. Dream my dreams, and be careful not to confuse them with fantasies. Although sometimes fantasies turn out to be dreams, and sometimes dreams turn out to be fantasies. What’s the difference between a dream and a fantasy? Well, realistic and unrealistic. Possible and impossible. But sometimes what seems unrealistic, becomes a reality. And sometimes what seemed an impossibility comes to pass, it happens. “Oh, she’ll never… Oh, shit, she did.” “Come on, it’ll never… Oh, shit, it did. “

On Saturday I am going to be a featured reader at a poetry festival called Donde Esta Mi Gente. There’s a website www.dondeestamigente.com that describes this event. Baruch Porras-Hernandez dreamed up this artistic project. He’s a writer and performance artist who lives here in San Francisco. He says about this event:

“¿Dónde Esta Mi Gente?  (Where are my people?) is a Festival of Latino Poetry and Spoken Word! For three days writers of all Latino backgrounds are going to get together and recite poetry to the people of San Francisco as part of National Poetry Month. ¿Dónde Esta Mi Gente? -Is a celebration of the voice of the latino writer, a multigenerational, multicultural exchange between writers from all walks of life that seeks to answer that question, by gathering some of the top writers in the bay area.” Close up of fallen cherry blossoms.

I started this blog because I love to write. And because I have reclusive tendencies, I thought it good practice for being (in) public. But I don’t advertise it. I don’t tell anyone about it. Because it’s an experiment. It’s a public blog. Anyone who wants to can read it. I have already said, this is not a professional blog, it’s a personal blog.

Emily Dickinson didn’t have the opportunity to blog, or I’m sure she would have. But would anyone have read her? I don’t know.

I don’t want to be a poet of shadows anymore. I want light. This year seems to be off to a good start. I featured last month, I’m a featured reader twice this month, and I have three other possibilities lined up for future readings. Two are in Berkeley. So, momma’s got a brand new bag. Well, grammy, actually. The old bag. Moi. The old bag got herself a new bag. I’ve immersed myself in poetry this month. April is Poetry Month, after all.

Baruch Porras-Hernanez holding poster of Donde Esta Mi Gente poetry festival.

Baruch holding poster of poetry event.

Dream: I want a nice camera to continue taking photographs. This little camera I use is a simple non-pro camera, and I can’t always get the shots I want.

Dream: Make it as an artist. (Writing, performing, painting.)

Dream: Readers reading my blog.

If you are in San Francisco tomorrow, do come to the reading. It’s in the Castro.

 

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Up to the Mic, and into the Light

Poet reading at the mic.

A poetry reading around 2010. (Credit to whomever took this, it wasn’t me.)

I’m listening to Must Be the Season of the Witch, by Donovan. A song that came out in 1966, a few months before I was buried, I mean, married. I was sixteen.

April, the month I was born, there will be a full-moon lunar eclipse. Monday, April 14, I will be a featured reader promoting my self-published chapbook, For the Hell of it, at the Lunada, the full-moon poetry reading series at Galeria de la Raza, in the Mission District, in San Francisco. If you are in the area, come check it out.

Poster for Galeria de la Raza Lunada, full-moon spoken word, music, and open mic.

Poster for Spring 2014 Lunada (full-moon) Readings, Music, and open mic on 24th Street, Mission District, San Francisco. Graphics by Rio Yanez.

I feel strongly that this “is the season of the witch”: my season. This belated beatnik “is out to make it rich”. I am stepping out of the shadows, stepping up to the mic, and into the light. By “rich” I mean “enriched”, immersing myself in poetry, writing, writing, writing, and doing readings, open mic and/or featured, and retuning to painting.

List of readers and performers for at Lunada Spring 2014.

 

 

 

 

I’m on Youtube now. I haven’t watched it, I can’t tolerate watching myself, but I do love to perform. I hope it turned out all right. It felt all right that night. I am not going to post the vid here, but if anyone is curious, search for Voz Sin Tinta – Poetry Reading at Alley Cat Bookstore on YouTube. I checked to make sure that search would work. (Geeze, when I checked, it had only 73 hits.) So, it’s up to you. If you wanna check it out, check it out. If not, well, then don’t. (I’m 6 min and 30 seconds into the vid just fyi, if you check it out. But hell, you might wanna watch the whole thing. It got edited down to nine or so minutes. Prob a little bit o’ everything that night.)

The vid starts with an intro of 24th Street Mission District. I have no idea who the woman narrating is. I didn’t grow up in this neighborhood. I’ve mainly lived in predominantly white neighborhoods, though always working class, with a little bit o’ welfare class, and even some no class. :twisted: This is the first time since early childhood that I have lived in an “ethnic” neighborhood. (But it’s changing, being gentrified, and it’s turning hipster. I like diversity, myself. What I don’t like is “the haves” taking from the “have-not’s”. But that is a world-wide problem, and I can’t do anything to stop it, or I would.)

I was born in projects in El Paso, and lived in projects till almost five years old. I don’t have the experience of living “in the hood” or “the projects”. I was only born in one, not raised in it. I grew up poor, yeah, but not in an urban area. I grew up in a small, innocuous town, in a diverse neighborhood, but it was predominantly white. I did live in a tiny mining town, when I was two, though, in New Mexico. There were a lot of Mexican-Americans (and some Native Americans). Miners. I would’ve grown up there, most likely, but my dad had a drunken blackout and woke up at Camarillo State Hospital, a mental hospital near Los Angeles. (I think he was trying to get the hell away from my mom. In the seventies, a few years after they remarried, he woke from a drunken blackout in Hawaii. Twice. They lived in Northern Calif, near Sacramento.) I have always felt rootless, displaced, but living in the Bay Area is the place I have liked best. Half my life has been in the Bay Area, the last eight years in San Francisco.

My dad told me he met Charlie Parker in Camarillo. But when I researched it, Parker was

photo of Charlie Parker.

Charlie “Bird” Parker. Pic from AllStar Pics website.

there earlier, and would’ve been in New York in 1952/53, when my dad was in the hospital. BUT, the movie about Parker, if I remember right, has him checking out of Camarillo in 1953. So, beats me. I know my dad went to New York after he left my mom, in ’54. I figured it was because Parker was there. My dad always talked about him, like he knew him. “The Bird”, he would say, “I met him.” It’s possible my dad met Parker, even if it wasn’t in Camarillo. He also had a story of meeting Elvis Presley in a bar, but I can’t remember where. A Southern state, I think. He said a security guard tried to stop him from approaching Elvis, but that Elvis said, “Let him go. That’s my buddy.” Something to that effect. They sat at the bar and drank. Maybe Presley bought him his drink. Or maybe my dad bought Presley’s. My dad was that sort of guy. Cool, hip, charming. Plus, there are stories of Elvis being a very personable guy. I see no reason to not believe these stories. They sound plausible to me, knowing what kind of guy my dad was. When he cut out on my mom for twelve years, he traveled around the country, hopping box cars. He loved New York, New Orleans, Denver, Austin, St. Louis, Kansas City. I liked hearing him tell his stories. (My mom just glared when I’d ask him questions about his “travels” and “adventures”. Naturally.) All these cities were the places cool cats would be in the fifties. My dad wasn’t a musician, but he liked drinking, women, gambling, and good times. (Or, rather, bad times, know what I mean?) :) Too bad my dad wasn’t a writer, like Kerouac. He told good stories. His art was cooking, actually. He worked as a cook in those years he was “on the road”, when he wasn’t drinking, gambling and kicking it up. My dad was a great cook, and always had that rep. Geeze, he should’ve stayed away from my mother. But he always did have self-destructive tendencies. (I, myself, haven’t seen the old bat in years. She’s 90, but her mind is still strong. I know she’s a damaged woman, and I feel sorry for the old crone, but I can’t heal her. And she sure as hell can harm me, with her passive-aggressive shit, her game playing. Sorry, but fuck that shit. I’ve learned to keep my self-destructive tendencies in check.)

On my last post I said that Professor Murguia hadn’t invited me to feature, that the curators of his reading event did. My bad. I misspoke. My reading night, I went up to him,

Reading poetry at Voz Sin Tinta, Alley Cat Book Store, San Francisco, Calif..

Reading at Voz Sin Tinta, Alley Cat Book Store, San Francisco, CA.

shook his hand, and said, “We’ve run into each other, but we’ve never been introduced.” I introduced myself. He introduced himself. I said, “Well, yeah, I know who you are.” I am getting to learn more about him, too. He’s actually a pretty cool cat.

He said it was his idea that I be invited to feature. I was surprised, and pleased, actually. I’m grateful. I need endorsements, if I am to succeed in my endeavor. BUT, first and foremost, I want my art to breathe, to live. That is to say, my primary objective is to create art, not feed my ego. And I want to share my art. Hopefully, cool people will dig it. :) Ha, check that? I say, cool people. 8-)

I was told that the reading would be filmed, and I could opt-out, if I wanted. Well,

Featured and open mic readers at Voz Sin Tinta at Alley Cat Book store in San Francisco.

Featured and open mic readers at Voz Sin Tinta, Alley Cat Bookstore, SF.

obviously, if I want to promote my work, and myself as artist, I have to allow pics and film of events. I decided not to dress in my usual blacks. The poems in For the Hell of it are generally macabre, dark humor. I thought it best if I toned down the darkness by not wearing all black. This time.

I used to dress exclusively in black, and I mostly dress in black still, but goddamnit, some people are so fucking stupid, that for my own safety, I need to tone it down. I’ve been asked if I am a Devil worshiper, if I am a witch (well, I might be), am I a widow, and there was some indirect comment recently about my being an anarchist. (Uh, actually, philosophically, I am, but not in the negative sense. I don’t believe in chaos, and I sure as hell am not a political anarchist activist.) For my own protection, I need to be careful with dressing exclusively in black. I’m nobody. If I were somebody, it’d be safer. There would still be idiots making assumptions, but at least it’d be like, Oh, that’s Estela, the poet and painter. Of course, people who already know me, there’s no prob, but I do get some grief over it. Even family have asked me, “Why you always gotta dress in black?” I just say, “Cuz I like it.” Geezus, what is the fucking problem anyway? What is their issue with black? I never wear bright clothes. Don’t like ‘em on me. On someone else, cool, but not on me. Can’t really explain it. It’s just a thing. If my blouse is color, my skirt or pants will be black, and vice versa.

Johnny Cash photo.

Johnny Cash, “the man in black”. (Image from some fanpix website.)

I always liked this line in the movie Walk the Line (about Johnny Cash, for anyone who may not know). Cash, of course, was known as “the man in black”. He even wrote a song about it, cuz people used to ask him about it. (By the way, I don’t wear black because Johnny Cash wore black. I always have been a fan, but that is not why I wear black.) So, in the movie, people would go, “Why you wearin’ black? You goin’ to a funeral?” And Johnny (played by Joaquin Phoenix) would answer, “Maybe I am.” Ha, that’s a great response. :) Ishmael once asked me why I dress in black. That was way back in the late eighties. I said, “I’m in mourning. I mourn the sins of men.” He laughed, “Yeah, yeah,” he said, “I know, I know.” He walks off chuckling, shaking his head, like he’s thinking, “Crazy broad.” (Well, I might be that too.) :)

Here is a poem from my chapbook. I wrote it after my daughter bugged me about dressing in black, years ago. I told her, “Black is the color of mourning.” And I go, “Oh, shit, that’s a good line.” So, I wrote this poem. But I changed it to “morning”.

November Morning

Since you left town,
the streets
seem longer,
lonelier.

I want
to put
a bullet
in my brain
to take
your place.

Black is the color
of morning.
Black is the color
you leave me.
Black is all
I adore.

I hold this heartache
like a bouquet
of withered roses.

I dreamed
death crawled
into my bed,
and locked me
in his arms.
I felt his breath
in my ear.

I dreamed
your beard
turned blue.
I dreamed
you lost an eye.

I dream and dream
of you.

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Strange Night, a poem

He started saying, “Sometimes I think I’m going to lose you.” It surprised me. Why would Camelias in bloom.he say this? Why would he think this? There was no doubt in my mind. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I wanted to grow old with him. I wanted to be together till the end of our days. But he kept saying it. “I’m afraid I’m going to lose you.” There was nothing I could say or do to ease his mind. I had no idea what this was about.

Eventually, I decided he knew something about himself, that I didn’t. Maybe he was saying that if I knew this thing about him, I would leave. Maybe he was saying as soon as I knew this thing about him, it was over. Sometimes I wish I knew what it was that I didn’t know. But, mostly, I don’t. He loved me. I loved him. This I knew, this I know.

He didn’t lose me, per se, because I never stopped loving him. I just didn’t want to know what it was that I didn’t know. That would ruin this beautiful love. One day, I wasn’t there. As I left, I thought, “You always knew this. I didn’t, but you did.”

Leaving preserved the beauty, that’s why I still miss him. I don’t regret leaving. I regret I had to.

Strange Night

It’s a starry night.
I dream I sleep
on a bed of straw.
Crows fly across a yellow field,
cawing,
headed toward me.

The chair
in my room
is empty.

I saw you
sit there
in my dream.

The stars
look distorted,
blurred yellow orbs
vibrating in the violet sky.

I’m so mad,
I could cut off my ear.

I wish you were here.
But you’re a crazy cat.
I can’t have that.

Leaving you feels
like a self-inflicted wound,

a gunshot to my gut.

It’s a strange night.
The brilliant yellow moon
looks beautiful,
but a bit disturbed.

You were like paint
splattered on canvas:
dynamic, intense,
unique, difficult
to decipher,

but definitely real.

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Sometimes I’m So Scared

Morning light in backyard.Sometimes I feel so scared. I heard recently, somewhere, that “courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the ability to take action in spite of it”. Something like that. Hell, how many therapists told me that? “It’s ok to be afraid, just keep moving.” I have to keep reminding myself to remember not to forget what I already know, because, goddamnit, I keep forgetting.

I read Gods, Drunks, and Poets at open mic on Thursday. A woman asked me if she could have a copy of it, and said a lot of people came up to her after the reading and told her how much they liked my poem. I’d rather she buy my chapbook, but I didn’t want to refuse her request, since she invited me to be a featured reader in March. She said she wanted to read and re-read my poem, and show it to other people. I hope she does. Sure, man, tell them my name, have them come hear me read. Please, yes, create buzz.

On Friday I read a “crazy-love” poem called Creature at another open mic. After the reading this guy came up to me and said he really liked my poem. He was all smiles, and was practically bowing to me. “Ah,” I thought, “cool. A fan.” And this other guy, a poet, whom I have been running into at readings, came up to me and said, “I’ve been hearing you read. I like your work.” I said, “Likewise.” He gave me a friendly hug. A few other folks, as I walked through the crowd after the reading, smiled and commented: “I liked your poem.” “That was great.” “That was really good.” I left feeling pretty good about the positive feedback. I felt really good about myself.

So, what happened? By the time I got home, my negative inner-voices attacked me. The negativity I was fed, and that I internalized, began to abuse me. “I’m a piece of shit,” I found myself saying. “I’m an idiot. I’m a fool. I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid.” I had completely lost the good feeling. I didn’t feel light anymore, I felt heavy, tired, and sad. It felt as if I were getting beat up, slammed around, punched, kicked, and slapped. Well, I was, actually. I psychologically beat up my own self. Then, somewhere else inside of me another voice said, “Don’t speak ill of yourself. Don’t abuse yourself.” That internal voice wasn’t as loud as the negative voice. But I said out loud, “I don’t deserve to be insulted.” I have to keep reminding myself. I deserve to embrace the positive feedback, and don’t deserve abuse. One day the positive voice will grow stronger than the negative voice, as long as I remember to remind myself not to forget.Backyard view from deck.

I crawled into bed, feeling weak. The negative voice screamed at me, while the benevolent voice faintly whispered, “Don’t listen. It isn’t true.” It felt true, though, and I was whispering to myself, “I’m such an idiot. I’m a piece of shit.” I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stop. I felt very sad, and afraid. But I decided to ride it out, like a fever.

The negative inner-voices create my fear. This fear is self-doubt, and that makes me feel sad, alone, helpless, and lost. But I’m not helpless. And I don’t have to be alone (if I don’t want). And if I’m lost, courage will help me find my way. The woman who asked me for my poem, and who has invited me to read in March, said to me, “You’re a really good reader. And you have a real presence up there.” She was smiling ear to ear, she was excited about me. I’ve been reminding myself about this and the other positive feedback. I remind myself, like taking doses of medicine, daily. It is medicine, to focus on the positive experience, to drink it.

I’m watching Palladia. Man, I love Palladia. Right now it’s metal. Iron Maiden in concert. Geezus, it’s fucking energizing.

I love all types of rock and roll, except what is corporate pop trying to pass as rock. Like Britney Spears, or Katy Perry. Ugh! Lord, those dumb bitches sell their shit big too. My god, they have fans! But what the hell. If they make some people happy, and they are happy, well, fuck me.

I love music. Great music. Doesn’t matter so much the genre, just as long as it’s great music. I’m a super fan of Jack White. Man, that guy is a genius. I also love classic country:  Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, and I really like his daughter too, Roseanne Cash. And, boy, I remember Patsy Cline. I don’t know if I already told this story, but, anyway, there was a time when I couldn’t listen to Patsy sing I Fall To Pieces. I always fell to pieces. I felt so bad for a date once. He put on a Patsy Cline CD. I didn’t know it, until the first song came on–I Fall To Pieces. I immediately broke into sobs. I was so embarrassed, and he was so surprised. “I’m so sorry,” I sobbed, “I’m sorry.” He ran over and changed the CD. Poor guy. That was really pathetic of me. I know. Hell, it’s the stuff of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Field of gras and wild flowers.The other day on Palladia, I was digging Blake Shelton, last week Dwight Yoakum, before that Gary Clark, Jr. (love him!), and not too long ago, Ben Harper (love him too!) with Charlie Musslewhite (super!) Yeah, love music. And great lyrics. OH! Now it’s Ozzie! Yeah!

Many, many years ago, I went to a concert, and Ozzie was one of the performers. He wanted to fire up the audience. It was a huge arena. He was a small figure on the stage, and the furthest fan was a dot in the distance from where he stood. Ozzie yells, “I wanna hear you.” And the audience yelled, “Yeah!” But in such a huge stadium, it was hardly a buzzing mosquito. Ozzie, goes, “I can’t hear you!” And then again, “I can’t hear you! I wanna hear you! I wanna touch you. I wanna feel you. I WANNA FUCK YOU!” Man, this hush fell over the crowd, momentarily stunned, but only for a second. My crazy sister (in days we still kept in touch) jumped up, threw her arms up in the air, and hollered, “AAGGHH! COME OWWWNNN,” sweeping her arm in front of her, beckoning him to come forward. We were too far away for Ozzie to hear us, of course, but people around us turned to look at her, and were immediately infected with joy, laughter, and fun, the Spirit of Rock and Roll, and they all jumped up, their arms flew up over their heads, and they hollered, “WHOOO! YEAH!” It spread like a wave in front of us. We were way up in the bleachers. The whole stadium roared. Ozzie smiled, he was so very pleased. That’s exactly what he wanted. My sister wasn’t the only one who reacted like that, but in our immediate area, it was her voice that started the wave that swept forward, people jumping up, roaring. It was an amazing sight that I will never forget.

Yesterday, I sent some poems to this guy who is planning a poetry reading event in April. He asked me to send him some of my work. I don’t know if I’ll be chosen to be one of the readers. We’ll see. I need gigs. It terrifies me, but I want to do it. I want to step out of the shadows, step up to the mic, and into the light.

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