Last time I went to hear myself read I didn’t hear half of what I said.
I am not the kind of person who should be standing up here speaking to you, reading aloud these selections from my unknown, uncelebrated opus. I am neither polite nor deliciously witty. My voice is not especially pleasing. I am not good with enunciation, pronunciation, the cadence of language as it rises, falls, leaping from one’s tongue. You will not develop a crush on the words I choose or the order that I put them in, once I put down the songbird’s chirp of my pen and pick up the Neanderthal club of my voice.
(I’m more the kind of person who finds himself in a café, sitting across from a New Jersey mom who’s in town to drop her kid off at college. She’s holding a five-dollar cup of coffee that’s so large it makes her head look small by comparison. Her breasts sag in a classical way beneath her designer sweater, and I find myself refreshed by the fact that she hasn’t had them done. The man sitting next to her is plugged in to every type of hi-tech communications device available on the market. He finagles all his different settings tirelessly, as a young girl sitting opposite him considers changing her sexual orientation. I glance at the newspaper and my eyes glaze over. I am ready to stop worrying about the whole world. Funny how the less news I read, the more capable I am of truly caring about every human on the planet, rather than just processing all the endless information – there’s a paradox to meditate on. Now if only I could start treating my body like a sit-down restaurant instead of a drive-thru.)
Yes, even here standing before you, I crave my reticent shell the way New Year’s Eve longs for a poignant encounter, a significant chance meeting. Even now I yearn to be lost from inspiration, to renounce words, embrace cognitive dissonance, forsake the very thing that holds my bones together, forget the unanswerable koan of my life and go forth to earn a little money – one of the few things not earned in the work of poetry.
When it comes down to it, though, I’m probably more cut out to just sit and look out a window, nursing a hot cup between my hands and watching the snow fall, owning nothing, content with the knowledge that I will likely never amount to much. I’ll just sit with the memory of my grandfather tossing a grilled steak down in front of me – a steak so huge it hung over the sides of the plate with fat and charred gristle along its edge. And those four words he delivered it with, as if I were a trusty dog who’d been sniffing around a hunting camp.