Life of a Poet

[This poem is designed for performance. If you are reading it silently to yourself right now,
you’re doing it wrong.]

Each poem starts out scrawled on scraps
so newborn I have to slap it on the ass
just to be sure it knows how to scream.
But I always do.

Because I am poetry’s whore,
paid by the hour to make love to sound,
pressed to find the connection between
coffee cajoling cadburys & coitus
just because the words sound so sweet in symphony.

And poetry owns me.
It convinces girls they’re in love with me
because they begin to believe
my heart must burn as brightly
as the words I use to light it.

But the life of the poet is not a happy one.
I’ve started to feel like we’ve spent so much
time at the murky end of the pool
that we now believe the only sort of happiness we have
left to us is sadness
with intensity.

Am I wrong?
Or was the last poet who knew how to sing a happy song
Orpheus, in those moments before Eurydice slid softly back
along the sound of his footsteps echoing
in the mouth of Hades.

Here. Let me try to write a happy poem:

Once, I saw a puppy.
It was … nice.

No:
Once, I tasted chocolate.
It … melted.

No, wait!:

Once, I didn’t kiss a woman.
She smelled like strawberries
and had this way of playing with her tongue behind her teeth
that made me desperate to know what she tasted like.
I wanted to hear the pitter-patter
of her heart
raining
over mine.

This girl, her skin was glossed so thick with innocence
that just standing near her made me feel less jaded,
and I feared my fingertips might smudge her
if I ever dared to touch her,
but I think I could have loved her,
and I saw that,
and it was good.

And no, maybe it wasn’t happy, not exactly,
but it was honest.
And if the life of poetry has taught me just one thing,
it’s that I prefer an ounce of honest sadness
to all the world’s oceans of happiness
with a secret.


This poem was written as an impromptu performance piece for an open mic night in Spring of 2012. It has since become one of my more popular pieces.

The woman I didn’t kiss deserves my thanks, but I won’t name her here. She is still, I believe, unaware that she got a starring role.

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