During my visit to the book expo in Chicago to pick up my copy of The Journal of Modern Poetry, I competed in the Green Mill Poetry Slam, the longest running live performance in the city. I didn't like what I'd brought to read so I wrote this poem while listening to the performers during the Open Mic and read it, instead. The poem is a picture of the evening and made real by the words I heard onstage: I took the lines "Hell is always personal" and "I love everything about you that hurts" from other poets, Marc Smith spoke of gambling in his performance, and Black Lavender is a regular at the Green Mill who read that evening. And someone who has never read in public? They're called virgin virgins.
Chicago where Capone once sat,
where history is beginning all around us,
and Marc Smith rolls the dice onstage.
Then a man walks by with his hair like yours
and his coat like yours
and I can't hear him rolling anymore.
Indeed, I see you everywhere.
And oh I need a way to lose
the words that brought me here:
and doctor says
crush it with your teeth,
hold it under your tongue until it dissolves because
Hell is always personal.
I ran more than once to get away from you
and woke up drowning in a gutter
or huddled in a corner where
maybe you would notice me.
You broke me but I'll admit:
I let you.
All those cracks the better to draw you in,
the better to absorb you because baby,
I love everything about you that hurts.
Then there is this guy again,
the damned emcee who called me a virgin--twice!
He must have never seen your face,
He must have never seen me watching you.
My turn now to stand here,
a chance to feel important for a moment,
and maybe this time you will hear me,
maybe this time you will care.
And someone rolls the dice again.