When I was 23, I wrote a poem called “The Right One,” and I performed it (a lot) for the next 8 years or so. I haven’t done it much lately, but I dusted it off for a couple of the Writing Spicier class showcases — and I’m so glad I did!
Some folks said they had no idea I used to do performance poetry, and had never heard this piece, so it’s clearly time to revive it. Here’s a few ways to listen / watch / read it yourself, if you’d like to.
The Right One
so I know ya’ll aren’t just here for the poetry
That certainly isn’t the only thing that happens on this stage
And I’ve seen you out there
gauging us poets
auditioning us for our oral skills:
how fast I can tongue my staccato
how long I can keep the poem rhythm up
how much languid lapping detail
I can alternate with tight lipped teeth
and tricky consonants.
You don’t care much for poetry?
Never really did it for you?
Well, maybe you just haven’t had the right
one that distills truth down to such simple depths
that your heart softens and liquefies
your life on the outside falls away
and all you feel is the poem
the ta ta ta of the tongue against the teeth
or the pooling of the tongue
at the bottom of the mouth
in an mmmmmm.
Poets, we know about mouths
And we know about hands
where to put them and when
when to press and when to cradle
and when to punch it.
And that audience, you’re tough –
you know how to read the signs
the rhythm, the grind
the accentuation of certain key phrases
if I’m not cradling the space
as I’m picking up the pace
if I’m not planted firm and stead
when I’m getting you all ready
you’re gonna know it
you’re gonna feel it
my lips, my breath
my words taking you up
and to the edge of your seat –
because I’ve got the writer’s way of looking at the world,
it won’t be boring or redundant,
I’ve got minute details to activate variation
on the patterns and the rhythms
I know you like.
you see, I’ve been on top
of this stage
a lot. and I know
what gets you hot.
I know what gets this place bursting,
what gets you leaning forward,
watching my lips
my chest with my every breath
my hands when I lift and float
and I know you’ve seen my fingers –
writing gives us all that extra dexterity,
but you already knew that.
you’ve seen what writer’s hands can do,
where they can go,
what syntax they can bring,
what it’s like to have the ring
of a dismount in your head,
clinging and blazing,
like the denouement after climax
when your body tingles and frays for days.
it just takes some simple little phrase,
and I’m gone.
I’m standing up here
under all these bright lights,
my every fault showing through,
my character an unwilling flaw in everything I do,
I’m opening to you
so you may catch
a shimmering glimpse of what happens inside,
in that moment of terror,
when I’m cracked open and seeping
from all my tender places
so that you might just see
what’s inside of me
is inside of you, too.
watch me up here,
watching you on display,
I’m doing all the work
while you can just sit back and take it.
but I’m sure you know taking it in
takes just as much as dishing it out.
and me, I’m doing this just for you,
cause I know how much you want it, secretly,
to be rocked by some sweet piece up here,
just for you,
with my tongue against my teeth
my throat wet
my wrists strong and pulsing
just for you,
my feet planted firm
this mic as my simple instrument
just for you,
my body, my tone
my placement, my poem,
I’m putting it out there,
and you can decide
if you came here tonight
the right one.