Stroll On

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is the new poem I performed in the first round at Capital Slam this past week.

CONTEXT: March/October 2011

The origins of this poem go back quite a ways. It started inspired by the Modest Mouse song, Float On. I was hoping for something anthemic, but as always, it is a long road from inspiration to execution.

It was written into my notebook as two simple words: Stroll On.

And then it was ignored.

Flash forward to March. During the first VERSeFest, I was having some issues that led to some insomnia problems. I dealt with that by writing some poetry. I started with a piece dealing with the specific problems I was having (Insomnia), and followed by flipping my notebook to my ‘inspiration page’ and writing about the first thing I saw.

I saw ‘Stroll On’.

The poem that came out is not the poem on this page, but it shared a number of things. It was a lot more negative, with the positive message still there, but it almost felt tacked on. I considered it briefly for the CapSlam Semi-Finals but decided it wasn’t what I was looking for.

It stayed in my book. (I ended up performing the other piece, Insomnia, at the CapSlam Finals.)

There is stayed until just after CFSW in October. While I was there, I took a look at the poem and started seeing what I saw in the first place, and I started thinking about what I could do to fix it up.

What I did was:

a) the opening bit with the frame etc. is all new.
b) I rewrote most sections – making them more… poetic
c) I dropped a section on a prostitute. I ran into some problems with my potrayal of a prostitute in a poem this summer and it really bummed me out. While I would not censor myself for that reason, the passage in this poem was not that strong anyway so I just cut it.
d) I had room so I beefed up the ‘happy’ part of the poem, including adding a section about the ‘Occupy’ movement.
e) During memorization I changed the entire way I present the poem, ramping up the intensity full bore for the first half (the ‘bad’ stuff) and then dropping it back down again for the second half (the ‘good’ stuff).
f) also durign memorization I thought there was something missing with the preacher part so I added the young boy part. Great last minute addition. 🙂

In the end, the piece is only two and a half minutes long (it came in at 2:20 at the slam) so I could add more, but I like the feel of it now. I don’t think adding more would make it better.

So, anyway, here it is!

    Stroll On

The longest journey
Starts with a single step
But it is hard to know
When you’ve begun
Until time washes away
The muddy edges and
Strips the frame to its borders
Revealing your existence as
Poetic footnote,
All hard corners and
Canvas backbone.
The earth rolls under your feet
A galactic treadmill
Forcing you lurching forwards
Until you Stroll On
Stepping around that
Homeless man looking
For change in other people’s
Status quo
And Stroll On
Past that tourniquet-tied
Stone-statue petrified
Who found his medusa
In a thrice-used needle.
Stroll On
Past the preacher
Who wonders when he stopped
Believing in redemption
Through the power of a god
That delivers him
Into temptation
And Stroll On
Past the boy that
Never saw himself
As temptation
Or agent of damnation
And Stroll On
Past the corridors of power
Where each elected marionette
Delivers shadow-whispered promises
To those who made him
Stroll On
Past landfills and toxic runoff
Past strip mines and tar sands
Stroll On
Past cookie-cutter
Gingerbread houses
Built on streets
Named after the trees
That no longer stand there.
Stroll On
Past a starving child in Africa
And a starving child in Ottawa
Stroll On
Past a heavily-armed teenager
Convinced he is protecting
His baby back home
By firing into a crowd
Of people who believe
They are doing the same thing.

And when you have
Seen too much and
Your back is breaking
From the weight of our
Earth-wrought ghost chains
Stroll On
Past two lovers
Soon to be wed
As they playfully argue over
China patterns,
His hand entwined in his.
Stroll On
Past a painter who discovered
The play of light and shadow
And released beauty like
A photographer’s flash bulb –
Bright and brief as she has
Already moved onto the
Next canvas.
Stroll On
Past those who would
Occupy as a reminder
That there are forces
More powerful than
Cash reserves and that
This oligarchy will not stand.
Stroll On
Past the teachers and doctors
Past the poets and playwrights
Past the farmers and firefighters.
Stroll On
Until you have seen
Every side of humanity
And do not define us
As a trip-wired world
Of landmines and corporate greed
Because as long as there are
People pushing back
You can see the world

So until that day
Put your shoulder
To the plow
And let’s get pushing
And together we can all
Stroll On.

The next piece I am working on I have performed before… but I wasn’t happy with the execution. Now I am trying to fix my performance up to give the poem its due.

  1. […] of course, I was drawn first in the second round, with no opportunity to calm down. I did Stroll On and it went well, despite the distractions. I scored decently. In the end I tied with Hyfidelik for […]

  2. […] stayed up there and did Stroll On, which was cool, but it was the other words he said that really stayed with me. He said he was […]

  3. […] up to memorizing two brand new pieces just now. Back in the fall I did a new poem called Stroll On, that was received very strongly. In fact, my infamous spreadsheet said it was my #2 poem, after […]

  4. […] and will be ANOTHER welcome addition to our scene! I slammed, of course, doing The Stranger and Stroll On, finishing second, between Kayla (who won) and DMP. Good company. After the show, the Kicksees […]

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