The Right One

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.

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


and hard


and driving,


pounding,


persistent


how much languid lapping detail


I can alternate with tight lipped teeth


and tricky consonants.

What?

You don’t care much for poetry?


Never really did it for you?


Well, maybe you just haven’t had the right


poet


yet:


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 line


the phrase


the word


the syllable


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


like that


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


and crescendos


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,


impersonal


or unsatisfying


no.


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,


mouth watering,


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.

and me?


it just takes some simple little phrase,


and I’m gone.


I’m yours.


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.

so bring


it


on.


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


and found


the right one.

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