Friday, January 26, 2007

X and O's...and all the stuff in between

S called me up. She said that she knew there was a writer somewhere still inside of me. I had committed the mistake of telling her in an email that I used to write poetry at one time. She jumped on it. S said it was her duty to bring me back to what she thought made me whole and if I was any kind of friend of hers, I would let her take me out to X and O's in the city to see one of her writer friends. To get back into the groove.

So I said yes. Bah.

She picks me up at about 8:45 pm on a Monday night. She grins, tilts her baseball cap that she's wearing to the side and says "Did you bring your journal? You're going to read some of your poetry tonight at open mic, right?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa. No one ever said anything about a freakin' open mic. I hadn't gone up to perform at open mic in close to four years. It wasn't that I had a freakish accident that made me hate it, or that I got super nervous and never wanted to do it was that I had fallen in and out of love with words and what they used to make me feel (and what they still do now) and wasn't sure if I had the passion in me to create and to perform. It takes a lot out of me...not to get all "Days of Our Lives" on you, but I would write poems, and never read them outloud - until the night of an open mic. And then suddenly, it was like I had realized what I had written for the first time and I'd start crying or getting angry, or filling with any sort of emotion that I had blindly written in. By the end of the last stanza, I stood there, raw and withered for everyone to see...and it was so freeing...but it was so tiring too.

S didn't care about all that. She insisted. I kept protesting. She dragged me into the car.

We walked into X and O's and she got us seats. There was an extremely large amount of people there. There were several people before. Some people with guitars, some people with prose and poetry written. And then they started the poetry slam battle.

This battle was the thing that I think changed my views as a writer forever.

These groups would pick someone out of their group to go up and represent them. This chosen team member would then go up to the mic and just start spitting a poem out. Out of their head. And not just reading it off -- performing. I mean pausing, grasping the audience, reaching out with their words and tugging every single person's ears in the room screaming "HEAR THIS!"

I laughed, I cried...but most importantly, I grabbed my journal and started to scribble. To write. To laugh in my words, cry in my words. I had been inspired by these people.

At the end of the night, something awesome happened. A middle-aged woman goes up to the mic. She stands there patiently waiting for the coffee mugs to stop clanging, and people to quiet their conversations until she has everyone's attention.

She stood there, took a deep breath and a hard look around and began to speak:

"My baby girl came into my bedroom the other day and she asked "Mama, where do babies come from?" I took a deep breath and stopped myself, trying to pace myself and turned to her and said "Honey, babies come from the deepest love from a mother's heart."...what I wanted to tell her? What I wanted to tell her was "Honey, babies come from late nights in hotel rooms, from the bottom of 20 champagne classes. Babies come from that flirtacious laugh, or that sly grin. Babies come from an exchange of words, or tongues, or bodies touchin'. That's where babies come from, honey. But you were loved. Oh yes, you were loved."

The whole room was quiet. And then everybody stood and applauded.

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