Open Mic Poetry

A curious girl’s ethnographic quest for stimulation, knowledge and the least common denominator…
(originally published on Austinist.com)

[In the glorious, time-honored tradition of the Format-Breaking Episode (like this and this), I now present… a poem.]
I saw the best minds of my generation
walk past the window without contemplation.
That’s what it felt like at first, anyway,
as I stood there listening inside the cafe.
No Ginsberg, no Kerouac, not even Mark Strand-
the first few readers really quite bland.
And though I was tempted to leave, I held tight-
at the local open mic poetry night.

I sat down as a geek began reading his verses-
“I wrote this in jail,” he said, followed with curses.
I tried to imagine what’d landed him there:
A fake chainmail scam? Or an RPG dare?

I might seem unfair, but you’ll soon see my point:
He used words like ambrosiaalack and anoint,
and he threw in The Legend of Zelda, or maybe
D&D reference or snake-headed lady.

And he didn’t notice that no one related,
But their glazed-over eyes and bowed heads demonstrated
that they, just like me, were merely pretending
to listen while wishing his epic was ending.

We clapped when he finished, then another man went-
Spouting rhymes about a scandelous night he had spent,
Then, abruptly, he said, “Man, I forgot the rest!
See, I just smoked some weed, and that shit was the best.”All the while, regulars started arriving,
clutching their Moleskines®, hugging and high-fiveing.
[I listened to poets come and go
while sipping my quadruple cappuccino…]
A recent divorcee’s reading demonstrated
that he felt “marriage is so overrated.”
Then a gray-haired woman in a vest and fringed boots
played a tune on her Native American flute.

The Host read a poem,
A songwriter sang,
Then the geek read another,
till his cell phone rang
(he had to cut short his six-part novella).
This opened the stage for another strange fellow
in an elbow-pad jacket and little round glasses,
as if fresh from teaching his English Lit classes.
But under that scholarly outer display
was a dingy old hoodie that gave him away.
His verses were… long… and… syllabically dense
(either that, or I could say they didn’t make sense).

Then a man took the stage with the creepiest stare,
black hat, tarot cards, leather jacket, long hair;
He swayed as he spoke, leaning forward and back-
from the alcohol/heroin/acid/and/or crack.
I wondered who he was before he forgot,
’cause despite all his weirdness,
he was somehow… still… hot?
It took me awhile to figure out why,
but then I realized he looked just like this guy.

Then an Einstein-Haired Man seemed to glide through the door-
He was clapping his hands and stomping on the floor.
All the while, The Host was once again reading,
“I’m frightened by… frightened by…” he was repeating.
And The EHM filled in the blanks with his beat-
Did this guy just wander in off of the street?
I asked myself, but when The Host was all through,
The Einstein-Haired Man took to the stage, and I knew-

He was a poet, the real thing, a pro-
reciting his lines, sometimes fast, sometimes slow-
recounting a fable of sorts about death,
and with each spoken phrase,
and with each careful breath:

My mind finally stopped all its chatter,
and remembered why all of this mattered.

So I gulped down as many words as I could swallow-
and, figuring nobody better could follow,
I wiped off my mouth with my sleeve,
and silently stood up to leave.

STATS

Gender:
2 female readers, 12+ male

Favorite forced rhyme award:
alone and conversaSHOWN

Number of random Arctic Monkeys references throughout the night:
strangely, 3 (from 2 different people)

How awesome is it that I predicted the exact moment of an obligatory Phoenix/ashes reference?
very