The scrape of laughter fills the bar &
preying, prying eyes behind shot glasses leer as she ventures in—
dainty fingers quiver, holding a virgin pen.
She signs then passes to a confident meaty hand &
a variegated band of voices
begins to create a list.
She stands, goes first—
steps over snickers to stage
whispering past wolf-calls
after the speakers sound her name—
audience a minefield whose dangers
are lost amidst the sacrificial shotgun beats
of her own heart as she abducts the microphone &
tells the world how her father raped her.

Welcome to an open mic—

Where young men confess to the witchcraft
of loving other men; closet doors flung off hinges &
light shining into cellar depths—
Where a wisdom generation of bards
write shards of songs to share with
the hot-coaled mouths of babes—
Where children, fetal positioned
burst forth from guts through throats
find their god’s voice & swing from it screaming:
This is my Name!
This is my Voice!
I am Not Alone!
Hands, unfamiliar, put down glasses—
crash in awed tidal wave applause &
“Spit that shit, Poet!”
Show your demons to the brightness of the sun;
let Him swallow them undone like bitter morsels
until they char & burn in his mouth—
Raise your skin past your scars;
let their shiny, tender gloss fade
into the mars of your flesh—
Display your open wounds;
Know that we know
where your real beauty lies—
Let your wrists bleed words;
your courage carry you one more day
because it takes strength to stay alive &
sunrise means survival &
goddamnit, I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast.
Welcome to an open mic

Where catharsis crawls up chords;
strangles the horrors seeping through hissing lips &
contorts confessions into psalms.
Paint with your palms the canvas of my ears
to the colors you have always seen—
the colors you have always been—
the ones you were made to think dirty, ugly, or not enough.
Play me a symphony so my eyes see
your successes & sorrows—
your future tomorrows—
Sing me the sincerities & sarcasms
that linger in the tenor of the voice
you reserve for yourself—
the one with the cadence only you march to.
Come to the poets when your parents abandon you;
when the priests tell you it’s too late;
when the shrink’s pills are caught in your throat;
& when the putrid stench of certain memories threatens to ambush you…
Write me a war cry—this stage.
Write me a ballad—my stage.
Write me a sonnet of survival—your stage.
Write me a villanelle, a sestina, a prayer—our stage…
WRITE & hear, here—
These words a music box,
let them dance from your tongue
until the claws let go—

Until your shame dies a death
the length of your poem.