Saturday, August 15, 2015

That poem (2007)

It wasn’t that he was a bad poet
He was actually quite good
Most audiences listened and he’d even had the occasional request
But as he found new audiences that he had never before thought open to him
He started to feel the need to outdo himself each time
This was when he started to work on the great poem
The one that would stamp his mark on this world he’d found
At the back of bars and in cafés
He wanted it to have everything
All the great hallmarks of the heroes of the literary world
Imagery both great and accessible to the layperson
A poem that would bring poetry back into the public eye
He wanted to transform the audience
He had felt their applause before
He had felt their cheers before
But now he wanted to feel their silence
To cause them to pause
To think
To ponder
To experience the worlds that he would create for them

He worked hard at his great work in the silences between events in his life
Gave no hints as to what he was doing
Hidden even from those closest to him
He read great tomes
Dedicated to the study of the various schools of thought
Of poetry
Of literature
Poured all that he had into this one growing piece of his soul
And eventually it was finished

He wasn’t sure
So he held on to it for a while
Hid it from everyone until it hurt to look at
Then one day he did it
One day he held the audience in his hand
And caressed them
He held them up to the light
Carried them with him on a journey they never forgot
He showed them worlds beyond common imagination
He taught them how to dream
He taught them how to love
He taught them how to fly
He pulled down the stars and juggled them
Throwing in a comet or two for good measure
He captured the bard and all of his muses
Their ghosts almost visible on the stage behind him
And when he finished the landing was gentle
He cradled them in his arms
Crouched low in a whisper
Gently laid them down upon the earth
And then he was done

And was met with a silence that was palpable

Almost silence
He could hear their breathing
Could see a tear in more than one eye
Saw joy on faces that held only him in their sight
Stepping down from the stage to return to his seat he was greeted with handshakes
Pats on the back
And hugs
Some even kissed his cheek in their exuberance

Things changed a bit after that
At readings he attended he was asked to read ‘that’ poem
Some had heard it and remembered
Others had been told about it
He read it in pubs
He read it in cafés
He read it on television
He read it on stages all across the country
He was approached by publishers to print his book
Any book
As long as it had ‘that’ poem

One day someone noticed that they hadn’t seen him for a while
That he no longer came to gigs
And what a shame that was because they remembered the first time they heard ‘that’ poem
But he couldn’t read it any more
Couldn’t stand there and be dissected by audiences
By critics
By experts
Listening to the motions of his great work and illuminating each other with their ideas of what made it so
The secrets of its effect
He couldn’t listen to the cheers and remember what ‘that’ poem used to mean to him
What reading and writing used to mean to him
He couldn’t go back to the stage with ‘that’ poem
The one that was so much a part of him
The one whose words he knew like the beating of his heart
And read it again
And he could never hope to exceed it
Or be allowed to do less

So he changed his appearance a little
Dropped his last name
Wrote for himself
Frequented smaller stages where nobody recognised him
And the audiences were polite
They applauded when it was time
Cheered sometimes, and laughed
Said kind things to him
But they did not welcome him in the way that he had been welcomed before he wrote ‘that’ poem
They watched him on stage
Smiling inwardly to himself
A modest talent who seemed happy to stay that way
Never pushing himself much
Leaving the stage and the venue as quietly and as alone as he had entered
They did not reach out to him like others had before
It wasn’t that he was a bad poet
He was actually quite good
They just knew he’d never be great