Back in March I wrote a poem–not something I normally do. I used to write poetry constantly when I was a teenager, but that was the sort of poetry you might expect a teenager to write. I don’t actually mean that it was bad or silly–I don’t think all of it was bad or silly, and as I got more experienced with it I played around with some cool forms. I even wrote a villanelle once! How many people can say they’ve done that? However, I always stuck with rhyming, and never free verse.
After high school I never really wrote poetry anymore; I think this is the second poem I’ve written in all that time. I’m not even sure why I did it. I think I was just trying to write about something that had happened to me, and I felt compelled to put it into a poem-y sort of form and style and out it came.
Reading poetry out loud is also not something I’d ever considered, until I posted the completed poem on Facebook and a friend asked me if I’ve ever thought about performing it. I’m like, well, I have now!
Columbus has a monthly event called the Queer Open Mic, which I’d gone to a few times. (I was shocked this month to discover that it’s only been going on for a year.) At some point this spring, I decided I was going to go again and actually sign up for a slot to perform this time, even though it terrified me.
At some point I also had the bright idea of posting about this on Facebook, which meant that I’d feel extra silly backing out. Plus one of my partners and her roommate decided to attend, so I especially had to go.
So I showed up early on Thursday night to sign up for my slot and you guys–I was so fucking nervous. For some reason I immediately developed an intense impostor syndrome about the fact that I’m not “””queer enough””” or “artsy” enough to be there, which I totally recognize is bullshit but that’s what was going through my head.
There’s also this thing in the queer community where there’s very much a pressure to look/present a certain way. You know–short “””alternative””” hair, tattoos, piercings, “gender-neutral” (read: masculine) clothes, kind of a punk vibe. Aside from the “””alternative””” hair and the occasional gender-neutral outfit, I’m just not into that. I hate needles so fuck all of that body modification shit (but I’m just talking about myself; you do you and I love seeing what other folks choose to do), I’m not into punk music or aesthetics like whatsoever, I like putting a lot of effort into creating an outfit (and sometimes a makeup look to go with it).
Here’s where someone always goes “so what are you saying all queer people dress like this wow how very stereotype of u,” so I’ll be clear: no, not all queer people dress like this, but those of us who hang around in queer spaces and are sensitive to social norms and expectations know that there are certain norms and expectations in our spaces too. I’m hardly the first person to make note of this; just check out this article and the relieved comments in response to it.
So anyway, I was sitting in a folding chair inside Wild Goose Creative, thinking about all of this at length and feeling quite silly about this, until the show started and I learned that we would be going in ~~~rAnDoM oRdEr~~~ which was another terrifying thought. I wish I could’ve enjoyed the others’ performances a bit more, but I was mostly thinking “WHAT IF THEY CALL ME NEXT.”
That said, pretty much everyone else was amazing and I loved how loudly everyone cheered when the hosts announced that the next performer would be a newbie to this open mic. (Come to think of it, I remember that from the times I’ve gone as just an audience member.)
Eventually it was my turn and I went and HOLY CRAP IT ACTUALLY WENT OKAY. I took my phone with me with the poem pulled up on it in case I needed a reminder (plenty of people read directly off of phones, notebooks, or looseleaf paper), but as it turns out I had it pretty much memorized.
My partner (who by the way wore a skirt with constellations that actually lit up and also brought me some rainbow roses) took a video of me. I think it’s the first video I’ve ever seen of myself that I didn’t hate even a little bit!
I’m not sure if I’ll do it again, but only because I’m not sure if/when I’ll write a poem again. Like I said, I’ve written two in like 8 years. But who knows! If it happens, it happens.
Here’s the poem:
“Hey, what’s up” you ask me at the party
As if you never held me naked in your arms
telling me you liked where this was going
then a few days later
It was summer then, and now it’s spring
Well, I got a raise
(It wasn’t much, but it’s a raise)
I moved out of that horrible apartment
and into a house with sunlight
tumbling through the windows
My roommate got a cat
He was a little thing, too good for this world
(He died months later, in her arms–
you never met him.)
and I honestly, swear-to-god
stopped wanting to live for a bit there
My teenage brother got suspended
for drawing swastikas in school
And for Christmas our mom took us to DC
to see the Holocaust museum
And both me
and our sister
and his Trump-loving ass
all cried shamelessly in public
because where the fuck else can you cry these days
besides a fucking Holocaust museum?
The next week I went to synagogue
first time in years
and believe it or not, I prayed
I got there still
(Don’t worry, I’m still an atheist)
Maybe to spite Trump, or Bannon, or
all the atheists who tell me I can’t be
both godless and Jewish
I was in their Purim musical
singing and dancing the story
of another girl who came out
of the closet
Oh, and while we’re on that topic:
I met a girl on OkCupid
and we’ve been hanging out
I went back on antidepressants
because I was fucking depressed
(despite it all)
I went hiking every damn weekend
of January and February
The highs ranged from 8 to 68
I learned to love the wind
I bake bread almost every weekend now
and give it all away to friends
(You’ve never had any)
I made 17 kinds of ice cream for my birthday party
I dressed up as Hanna Solo for Halloween
I spoke about sex education at a conference
I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder
It will never be cured
(Now you know why I was so tired
all the time)
My brain is slowly killing
all the neurons that keep me awake
I try not to think about this as
I take my meds each morning
and finally live again
Today I rode a motorcycle for the first time
(I mean, as the driver)
I was scared shitless but
it was like the wind took my face in its hands
The instructor said I did well
Tomorrow is the final exam
But the most important thing
(or, really, a just-as-important thing,
in the great scheme of things)
is that I finally realized that at this point I am DONE
with people who treat me carelessly
because they know I’m strong enough to handle it
I want people who treat me with care
because they know I’m precious enough to deserve it
And though you may say we were never much–
no love story would ever be written of us, and that is fine–
we were (I thought) friends who cared about each other
and to me there can never be more