Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sweetest Hangover: Ode to Split this Rock!

Don’t you hear this hammer ring?

I’m gonna split this rock

And split it wide!

When I split this rock,

Stand by my side.

(Langston Hughes)

Could have swapped spit

with the cute wild haired poet.

That’s how high I was, how happy.

He’s the one who sat up against me,

shoulder to shoulder at the open mic,

amid the expanse of open seats.

Who said I’m not coming onto you.

Said I’ve got a girlfriend at home.

He followed me to the Metro station,

said he didn’t. Still, there he was.

Me, I’ve got a poetry hangover.

If there’s a cure for this, I don’t want it.

If there’s a remedy, I’ll run from it.

I’ve got the sweetest hangover.

Not an ounce of liquor in my system,

no smack, no maryjane, this is the real thing.

Got drunk on Mark Doty & the murdered gay boy he brought back to life.

All sugared up on Naomi Shihab Nye’s mamool cookies,

still wiping away the powdered sugar, dates, nuts

from the clumsy front of my blouse.

Boozed up on Snookie Johnson’s wiley shit at the military recruiters’ office.

I’m no Diana Ross

singing some silly disco trash.

(That might be Regie Cabico,

but I don’t wanna say diva shit

when it’s not mine to be saying.)

I’ve got the sweetest hangover.

I don’t wanna get over

Sweetest hangover.

Intoxicated by Patricia Smith‘s smoldering self,

tingling with sex & sanity & righteous rage.

Martín Espada’s baritone repeats, resounds, rejoices in my head,

like I’m fumbling & stumbling en la calle San Sebastián.

Dennis Brutus, his real life story splitting real rocks,

not metaphorical Langston Hughes poetics,

nearly sobers me up…but not quite.

Poetry is what got me sloshed, pissed, got me hopped up.

Still poetry-drunk on the late subway ride,

a homeless woman asks for 75 cents.

Out of my pocket, three coins;

I place them in her soft palm.

As I do, she admires my ring.

I give that away, too.

She thinks I’m shitting her.

I tell her I want nothing in return.

She rummages her bags, intent on reciprocity,

so we engage in sweet Southern barter, sweet Southern banter.

Call it what you will: plastered, besotted, soused.

If there’s a cure for this, we don’t want it.

If there’s a remedy, we’ll run from it.

We’ve got the sweetest hangover.

For this imbibing

in politics & people & poetry,

there was a hammer ringing,

but no splitting headache.

Instead, we split the rock;

we split it wide.

Karen G. Johnston


Mark Doty read his poem, “Charlie Howard's Descent,” the actual STR reading can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28AYjytJHvE

Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, “Gate A-4,” is from the book, Honeybee (2008); she read it as her parting gift on the first evening of the festival.

Snookie Johnson is a character that Kenny Carroll has invented for his poem, SNOOKIE JOHNSON GOES DOWN TO THE RECRUITER'S OFFICE NEAR BENNING ROAD & STARTS SOME SHIT, which can be found at http://washingtonart.com/beltway/carroll.html

Martín Espada read marvelously his poem, En la calle San Sebastián, from his book, Alabanza: New & Selected Poems

Dennis Brutus is a poet from South Africa who organized to ban that country from participation in the 1970 Olympics because of the Apartheid regime. He was jailed for his actions, imprisoned on Robbin Island with Nelson Mandela, and had to break rocks as part of his imprisonment.

Patricia Smith is just plain kick-ass. More about her can be found at http://www.wordwoman.ws

Regie Cabico was one of the STR! festival organizers and ran the open mics with grace, humor, and no small amount of liquor.


roy said...

Dear Karen,

You know, I was wondering how the STR gathering went. I enjoyed the poetic trip report.

Thanks also for the links..


Bob Hoeppner said...

Glad you had a good time.

shadygrove said...

Now I /know/ you went to the Open Mic! How marvelous! :)

Your poem is my favorite STR entry yet! :hugs: Was great to meet you, and am enjoying your chapbook....

Anonymous said...

Awesome poem! I know that poetry-drunk feeling ... I get it when I'm lucky enough to get to the Dodge Poetry Festival. Maybe next year I'll make it to STR.

Anonymous said...

lemme try this again;
K - thanks for bringing me to the festival...i know how juiced you were when you returned so this is the only possible outcome...an amazing poem that goes along with all the other amazing ones
let's talk soon, soon, love, diane

tommy twilite said...

I've got a pretty good buzz goin, dat's some fine shit, yes indeed.