Sometimes you stumble into something unexpectedly awesome. I was invited to attend a poetry reading at The Grape Choice in Kirkland, a small and very nice wine shop down by Lake Washington. I like poetry. I used to write and read poetry a lot, and even now I occasionally publish a poem or pop off something too cute to publish and donate it to the universe via FaceBook. But I was primarily thinking of it as a social night out.
None of the people who invited me showed up. So I sat with my journal and a glass of Riesling called Poet’s Leap and watched. The poetry was all good, some even pretty phenomenal. I used a light blue pen and doodled notes about my next book and stray thoughts about work and sipped my wine.
Then some of the people in the audience helped an old man up onto the stage. His hands shook and sometimes his whole body shook. He breathed through an oxygen tube. He looked about like my little brother did a week before he died of cancer – weak and bony and bent at angles that implied the long last journey into the uncanny valley of death had started. The old poet had to work to hold onto the books he was reading from.
He recited powerful words from memory – multiple page poems from memory — keeping eye contact the whole way, catching the audience on his words and jerking tears from us. Taking us with him.
I hope that when I am failing I will still be on a stage with words. Sometimes the most powerful gifts from one to another are between strangers and unexpected.