I yelled at a room of self-identifying poets today. I’m not proud of what I did. God knows I was once a self-identifying poet too. Maybe I will be a self-identifying poet again someday soon, though I tend to doubt it.
I mean, I really gave it to them. They yielded me the mic and instead of poetry slamming, I slammed poetry slamming. The poets rolled their eyes for the first ten minutes, but then they shook with anger and started to cry. You would have cried, too. We all would have cried, and the tears would have washed us out to sea. And there at sea a many-divorced fisherman would have pulled us out of the waves and offered us a job on deck. And there on deck any one of us would have taken up smoking, and nearly broken our backs kicking fish into a hole, and oh, the infighting. More of us than not would have split for shore in an inflatable raft.
Once on dry land, we would have started a new business—this or that or another thing. This new enterprise, whatever it was, would not go so well at first because our customer service boots would still have smelled strongly of fish. But then things would have picked up. We would have worked hard and gotten rich and become understandably spoiled and bit out of touch, frankly. And we would have been ultimately done in by our own selfishness—this, that, or another thing. And we would have been forced to eat dirt and taste blood in the back of our throats and swallow all kinds of hurt down into our hearts. Then, and only then, we would have finally allowed ourselves to acknowledge and touch our pain and lay words over it like gauze.
And then we would have begun writing poems again. Bad ones first, good ones I guess, maybe a great one here or there. But it would have taken all of that time on the fringes of a frigid Alaskan livelihood to circle back to the poetry in any respectable sort of way, and when we arrived back there, we would probably no longer self-identify as poets, and we would certainly would not do as much stage yelling. Not unless our poems earned us enough praise that we believed the praise as truth and gulped it down like warm Pepsi with a cigarette butt in it. Okay, who am I kidding? When the praise-can is passed, who among us hasn’t tongued the spout for a few drops of warm Pepsi with a cigarette butt in it—just enough to get through winter. Anyway, if you see the self-identifying poets, tell them I am sorry. I would tell them myself, but I am temporarily banned from the Brooklyn Teen Center’s semi-annual Slampocalypse, as well as associated league-wide poetry events, including Slam I Am (Hartford) Slam Sandwich (Philadelphia) Slama Lama Ding Dong (Baltimore), and Slambrose Fierce (DC).
If you see the self-identifying YA novelist I cussed out 30 minutes before I yelled at the self-identifying poets, tell her I’m not yet sorry in the slightest, but that my feelings could change at any moment.
David lives in Seattle, Washington. His fiction has been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading and broadcast on National Public Radio. He turns the Instagram pics of strangers into fables @FoldedShorts. He has been kicked out of every casino in Las Vegas. He tweets @davdrury.