Poetic License

I’ve been in a poetic mood lately, mainly because while clearing out an old file cabinet I found some poetry—and I used the term loosely—that I’d written years ago in college. It’s made for quite an interesting, albeit cringe-worthy, trip down memory lane. I found a blank verse poem about coconuts, a quatrain about a quasars, an ode to popcorn (which at one time comprised a third of my diet), and a rhyming twenty-line poem about lies (composed after a bad break-up), among other “gems” from my poetical past.

I couldn’t stop laughing while reading them. My, how youth feeds the ego! I took my subjects and my art so seriously that the words just scream “beatnik wannabe.” I apparently, at the time, didn’t see that some of my poems were only slightly better in structure and quality than those of a third grader, nor did I note that my attempts at emotional depth were as shallow as a mud puddle and my vocabulary had the range of a wagon with no wheels.

I do vaguely remember reading some of my work aloud to my cat at the time, Gilbert, and thinking that it sounded so much better when interpreted through the spoken word (translation: when I acted it out so that attention was drawn to my inability to act as opposed to my inability to write palatable poetry). I’d stand in front of my mirror in my dorm room, practicing in case I got the nerve to go perform on stage at a local bar that allowed introverted Robert Frost geeks and Audrey Hepburn copykitties in various stages of inebriation to indulge in their crazy fantasies of becoming the next Poet Laureate, or at the very least, the next lucky chick to go home with the totally rad, aloof hipster who could work a room better than a William Shatner at a Star Trek convention (even without the girdle).

I never got up the nerve, although I got to witness many who did take the mic and some who thrived on the attention and the hit of adrenaline from getting up in front of people, who, no matter how horrible your poem about the love between a squid and tractor was, would bravely endure your rendition—shouts, tears, jerking motions ala a seizure, and all—and actually clap at the end. Or nod. Yeah, the hippest cats just nodded while the rest of us clapped wildly, showing our lack of literary maturity. It got pretty emotional at times, but there was always something to burst the pretty intense bubble that cocooned us when our brethren read their masterpieces.

For example, one night this guy got up and read a poem that, on a scale of 1 to 10, ranked “funeral dirge.” It was a somber piece filled with angst and low key feigned emotional blood-letting—lots of whispering, too—throughout the rather subdued recitation. This went on for several minutes until one part in the middle when the poet suddenly shrieked (in remorse, he said) and startled the bartender so badly he dropped a martini glass. I snorted my margarita, and for the rest of the guy’s delivery, after I cleaned all the salt off my turtleneck, I couldn’t stop snickering and almost choked myself trying not to laugh. 

I finally let loose when polite applause filled the room, but the effort to hide my poor manners backfired. My cackles and guffaws rose over the clapping of hands, and several audience members, mostly the poet's buddies, turned to glare at me. I knew then I’d never be a true poet. My sense of humor outweighed my desire to wallow in the dreariness of my lackluster, nearly meaningless human existence, and so I hung up my poetic devices, or more than likely filed them under “College Crap” in the filing cabinet where I found them, and focused on graduating and getting a job.

But, you know, the urge is still there. That feeling of needing to interpret the world around me for those not fortunate enough to see it the way I do still bubbles passionately just beneath the surface of my soul. I can’t help myself. I just have to share a poem. Remember, my stuff is better when read aloud to family pets. Use animated hand gestures like shaking your fist at the ceiling every time you say the word "lies." Stress every third syllable and enjoy.

A Man in Love by Cameo Brown
Clark’s five kids.
His carnations and his bike from France.
All lies.
But not really!
Or maybe...
Clark is remembering Julie and the tears begin.
Tears that wash away the lies, make the carnations blossom, make his bike from France sparkle.
Tears that make his robot maid clean his dirty underwear and his five kids wonder, “What’s wrong with Daddy?”
But Clark will never divulge that Julie owns a piece of his heart he will never get back, as well as two sweaters from the Gap, that beautiful necklace of tourmaline, a bushel basket of balloons from Utah, and Ted's photo album from Chicago.
So his kids will never know the truth.
For she is their mother unit.

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