Sunday, March 22, 2009

I read my poems at a church this morning

It was out in Salem, at a little Unitarian Universalist church right by the commuter rail. Sam got us the gig through his UU connections, but he was still in Oregon today, so I did it alone.

It was a small congregation of friendly small-towners. They gave me coffee beforehand and hummus and bread and salad afterward. I read these poems:

Meditation on a Signature

My signature
on the screen
at Trader

Joe's, where I have purchased
70 dollars' worth of health food
so I can go back to living at home

looks like I didn't used to believe
my own signature would ever look
when I was in the third grade

learning cursive. They were teaching us
how to write with our hands casually
without stopping. I thought I would

always write my name carefully. I thought
that my name was too important to scrawl.
I also thought my stuffed shark loved me,

which is ridiculous
because in most cases
sharks do not love humans,

but before one's trust in the inanimate,
before one's love for the ungiving of love,
even before one's ability to stop mid-word,

belief in one's name must be the first to go.

*

Some Very Cheerful Moments Happen To Me When I’m Too Depressed To Appreciate Them Fully

Sometimes, when I'm depressed,
I find myself somehow
walking down Harvard Avenue
wearing or carrying something
that would seem more fitting
for a non-depressed person
to wear or carry, like I'll be carrying
a stuffed monkey with fairy wings
that meows like a cat when you squeeze its hand,

and an old-ish lady who looks like she's been crying
will stop me and say, "Where did you get that little guy?"
and I'll have six beers in me, so I'll have to say, "What?"
and the old-ish lady will say, "Where did you get your friend?"
and I'll say, "My friend gave him to me. Here, check this out,"
and I'll squeeze his hand, and he'll meow like a cat,

and she'll chuckle and look at me
like she's completely done crying
and say, "What's his name?"
and I'll say, "I don't know.
What should his name be?"
and she'll look at his red and pink shirt and say,
"Happy. Happy--Heart."
and I'll say, "Happy Heart.
Okay." and I'll smile a little,

and I'll kind of want to ask if she's been crying,
or talk about why I've been crying,
but instead I'll turn back around
and continue walking home,

and I'll pass out over the sheets of my futon,
and at some point in the middle of the night
I'll toss to the corner of the futon
and squeeze against something
and get woken up by a meowing sound,
and I'll think it's my housemate's cat,
but it's Happy Heart,

and I'll smile again, and fall back to sleep
before remembering how depressed I am.

*

Okay

When I was two years old, I fell
and caught a huge splinter in my chin.
My mom says I bled a lot but didn’t cry.
I still have the scar under my beard.

Earlier today, my housemate’s cat clawed me in the face.
I thought my eyebrow was going to bleed. Meanwhile,
the cat kept rubbing up against the chair and meowing
as if she wanted me to keep on petting her.

My face has been in a small amount of pain all day.
I’ve been considering writing a song called
“My Cat Just Clawed My Face.”
I wouldn’t call it, “My Housemate’s Cat
Just Clawed My Face,”
or even, “My Cat Clawed My Face
On The Day That I Wrote This Song
(But Now I’m Okay).”
Sometimes, when you’re writing songs,
you have to lie a little bit
so listeners can sympathize with you better.

My housemate’s cat is usually a better cat.
Her name is Sundance. She is tiny and hyper, and graceful
except that she always bumps her head on low furniture.
I love her even when she claws me.
Sometimes I think that I love her so much
because I’m always a little afraid that she’ll claw me
and therefore always a little grateful that she’s not clawing me.

The great thing about cats is that they’re such chaos,
it makes them the perfect creatures to adore.
I could start shutting doors behind me,
avoid Sundance’s torn-apart cardboard scratching box
every time I go to my refrigerator,
or I can stoop down and give her a pat on her knuckle head,
no clue if she loves me or hates me,
enjoying the company for a second,
and maybe just minding my eyes.

*

Reading at this church was a really calming experience. I felt more like I was sharing my story, and less like I was performing my work--not that the latter can't be uniquely rewarding, in its way, but there wasn't any pressure. I'm kind of glad I didn't say yes to reading off of the higher pulpit. They had one pulpit that looked like a one-person elevator, further up on the wall than the organ platform. Actually, that might have felt pretty awesome.

I think that even the fullest life must be so full of regrets.

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