Listen. Can you hear it? We are the poem.
It’s in our voices, in our water streaming, its rhythm in our temples beating. It is the
dreaming, its meter beats through the soles of our feet into the earth beneath us. Our
eyes follow birds in the sun blushed skies brushed by the flames of beach bonfires. It
is holding hands; it is first kisses. 3am conversations and shooting star wishes, it
is music, it is here. As light as babies’ laughter and as dense as old men’s cellared
tears, it danced like prayer on Plato’s lips when he rested. The poem is in the way,
she sways her hips when she walks. The way the sun sheens while he lays bricks bare-chested.
You are the poem, you are a symbol, you are meaning. Each of us a line, together we make
tight stanzas, can’t you hear the way we rhyme when our vowels arc electric across
our lips. Can’t you hear the way we rhyme? You were born to know this. Your mother whispered
the poem through the red curtain of her belly, our lives are performed in the round to subliminal
libretti. And when we die our funerals are merely rehearsing, our pieces remembered,
resonance resounding. I am the poem, I can feel it like static crackling along my skin,
my pen hand twitching, its voice in my throat itching. And when I share my woeful hoarse
echo of the poem it is a remembering like, yes, this is home. Sometimes we forget to
listen, sometimes we lose our place in the chorus, and it takes the kindness of strangers.
Coffee conversation pauses or the knowing curiosity of a child to restore us. Come,
let’s rehearse the verse that trips on our tongues. Come, let’s lay down the lines
that our fingertips know. Listen. You can hear it. We are the poem.
I’m a poet, but like you I have other labels. I am a husband, a father, a son, a brother,
a friend, I’m a runner, a reader, I’m also a businessman, a suit. No, really. I
wear some of these capes more comfortably than others, but it is being a poet which
is the most essential, the closest to the essence of being human. It’s the thing that
whispers in the ear of all of my other labels. Making art through poetry and performance
is my highest expression of humanness of my frailty and boundlessness. There is a story
in all of us. I call my story a poem. Sure it’s made of language but it also has movement,
music, it is visual, it is a hummingbird in the chest, the wailing of mothers, it is a
palm pressed against rain pelted glass, it is a tattoo on the tongue.
I want you to find your art, learn your heart song, know yourself, share this with others.
The message that reads, “Hi CJ, we spoke at the festival. You asked me if I wrote and
I told you no. I should have said, ‘But I want to.'” The father smiling through
sorrow complete with son, he tells me he cried during my poem of the remembered release of
billy-cart rides. This is my poem. Mountaintop conversations with storm clouds, the current
that flows when we connect, the thrill of lighting fireworks in your eyes, this is my
poem. Each scene is a forest path, words are crumb strewn from one frame edge to the other.
I am trying to splice the strips together, find the beginning and know that it’s not
the end, but there are so many pieces I’ve yet to find. This is my poem.
Instincts of fragments, sometimes I stumble and trip, I break China, I have scalded your
feet, but other times my hands are smooth and cooling. I don’t understand this but
I’m trying. I have felt so often a mistake is my safe place, and I’m yet to write my
worst lines. This is my poem. They call me an artist, I go to parties and my friends
in nightlights, lighthouses, flashlights and flares with pop rocks in their belly, sparks
in their tongues, not yet taught to extinguish their dreams. This is my poem.
This house is much bigger than it looks, and there are wardrobes I haven’t opened yet.
Each time I climb the stair at night, that one step makes a different sound, I run between
shadows, I stand frozen in corners, I am looking for the one room I don’t want to find. But
one day soon I’m going to invite all of you to a blue light disco in the attic. We
will be all big hair, eyeliner, acid wash and lace. Walking like an Egyptian, bratpacking,
partying like it’s 1999. We’ll chase out all the ghosts, but first there is some furniture
I need to move, I have to do this alone. This is my poem.
Discovering girls in cubby houses, falling from roofs billy-carts, [inaudible 00:05:54]
my house and papier-mâché pigs, this is my poem. He-Man and She-Ra, ten-speed bicycles,
Doctor Who, buck teeth and braces, this is my poem. The dead Kennedys, duffel coats and
desert boots, two girls named Kylie, this is my poem. Unfiltered cigarettes and southern
comforting woolsheds, this is my poem. Tom Waits, Makowski, my three sons, this is my
poem. Your smile, your laugh, your eyes, oh God yes, your eyes, this is my poem, and I
can see you disappearing behind that dropped curtain in the upstairs window. I am coming
up, let’s roll up the rugs, sweep the floor, dressed in our wicked best and stretch our
limbs. I am an excellent dancer, but you lead, come create with me. This is my poem.
This is my poem. Promise me you’ll find yours. There is a story living in all of us,
and each overlaps with the person who is next to us and the person in the next row, and
the person on the other side of the globe. Your story doesn’t have to be a poem, it
could be expressed through painting, singing in a choir, gardening. Your story is your
art. Be creative, uncage your intuition, allow yourself to make unconscious decisions, learn
more about yourself. share this with others, listen to their responses. Know better what
it is to be human. Promise me, you will find your poem, find
your corners, [inaudible 00:07:42] now is the rough skin, your scars, your warts, the
asymmetric limbs. Trace your wrinkles, your frowns, the laugh lines, the edges of smiles,
the lifted brow, the eyeball glint, rediscover where you are ticklish, the warmth of hands,
breath on skin, map the [memoir Braille 00:08:00] of your body.
Find yourself washed up on the beach, salty and sun raw, dropped at the high tide mark
of memories’ foam, buried in the sand, borrowed between the top warm layers and the sea seeping
back in beneath between the burn of recollection and cooling hand of reprieve. Find the bugs
in your garden, the creepy crawlies and the butterflies, the fragile stick insects, nervous
twitch, the holiday cicadas white noise buzz, make field notes. In case the bugs gently
invented glass and take them to class for show and tell. Think less and feel more, feel
less and just do. Spend more time with yourself as a child,
[inaudible 00:08:50] outside the lines, use the wrong colors, embrace your mistakes, turning
them into plasticine. Make a collage of the dumb things you have done. Do more dumb things,
run naked between puddles in the rain, get dirty, paint with your fingers, make mud pies,
go around barefoot more often, leap from cliffs into dirty water, dance with strangers dressed
only in your soul, memorize your nightmares and lullabies by heart, vibrate like a spider’s
web, vulnerable and exquisitely strong. Talk to yourself much, much more often. Show me
what you have learned. Your sharing makes us both more whole. Promise me you will find
your poem. Thank you. Thank you very much.