“If you have $5 bucks or a chapbook or some drugs we can talk after the show” I said bringing the tall boy of Budweiser to my lips, placing it down on the bench, and grabbing the mic that sat in the stand.
There they were.
The names: Bill Gainer, John Dorsey, Jameson Bayles, and John Burroughs sat several feet from me drinking beers, fanning themselves with their books. It was the third day of readings at the Kansas City Poetry Throwdown— a dope ass literary festival at Prospero’s Books. I had been reading the work of some of the them for the better part of a year and there I was on the mic beside them.
Two dozen other people sat nodding their heads to the rhythm of the words. Jeanette Powers, a KC powerhouse took pictures laughing as I made a dumb ass face— right in that moment with the laughter, with the cheers of the audience, with the beer dripping down my beard— time just stopped. The lights of the bookstore painted a carousel of shadowed figures on the floor, a soft Midwestern breeze blew through the one open window behind me, and everything just clicked. I was right about to deliver my closing poem “Tale of the Phantom Shitter” and I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath.
This was it.
I was fifteen hundred miles away from home in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I was the youngest in a huge lineup of poetry heavy weights from California, the Midwest, and Ohio.
Rebecca and I flew out there with five hundred dollars and nothing planned. We found a hotel in the hood, hopped busses around the city from fields to the suburbs, and adventured around this new world. All of that culminated into this ten minute set in front of these people I didn’t know. What was I even doing? This whole journey is only three years old. Only in October did I start getting involved in actually pursuing something.
I thought of all the people I’ve met along the way, all the places this poetry journey has brought me and all the places it will.
I thought of my past, the road to nowhere with the existential angst dragging me down like a ball n’ chain. I thought of what I could do.
“There was a time when a phantom had struck the bathrooms at work” I said. “Leaving his fecal signature along the toilets, the walls, and the floor”
The crowd laughed.
The room bloomed.
And time resumed again.