Retirement (or 100th Poem)

Posted: September 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

This past saturday was the season debut for Capital Slam. Always an exciting event and this year had an even bigger significance for me. Read on to find out…

CONTEXT: May, 2011

This all started a year and a half ago when I was trying to get something ready for the Capital Slam Semi-finals. One of the pieces I put together was called… Heaven, I think, though it wasn’t the poem I ended up having of that name. I read it to Ruthanne and Ritallin and they both said the same thing: there are some nice bits but it sounds like two different poems forced into one.

They were right, so I tore the poem into two and rewrote both parts. One of the parts became Heaven, which I debuted at my birthday party this year. The other part was this poem. I ended up using neither piece (probably a mistake) and this one stayed in my book until now.

Sometimes things happen the way they were meant to. For example, I had decided to memorize my next poem in my notebook back in March. So I had a copy in my pocket when my surprise birthday party was sprung on me. It was perfect for the moment.
This time, back in July I checked my spreadsheet after I slammed to discover that I had performed exactly 96 times in competition at CapSlam.
Interesting. I kept that in the back of my mind as I slammed in August and made the second round (and came second to Kay’la Fraser). That put my total to 98.

So, at the CapSlam season opener, if I made it to the second round, I would slam my 100th CapSlam performance.


I opened my book to see what was in there, and I found this poem. Perfect.

I said at the show that I should have received a very large time penalty since my performance started back in August. I started telling people about the upcoming 100th poem and how it was time for a big announcement on my part.
I was trying to ride a fine line between subtle and obvious. Some people seemed oblivious. Others called and asked if I was giving up slam.
Of course, the stress on Saturday was HUGE as I had to MAKE it to the second round or all the momentum would be lost. I was up fourth or fifth and I did Heaven. I thought that was an appropriate pairing for this one. I even started by saying “This is #99” to get in in people’s heads.
It went fairly well. I had the second highest score thus far, but there was lots of room and some great poets still to come. I had to assume that PrufRock would outscore me and there was a good chance for Mia Morgan and DMP as well as the new voices that I was less familiar with.
When Pruf went up he scored JUST behind me but there were two surprises. Missaralee made her debut and was a big hit, pushing me down to third. Then Julie Vallon, who is quite new, had her best showing ever and knocked me down another spot. Still, with only DMP to go I knew that I had made the second round no matter what. Daniel came in just off the pace and I was in fourth.
The poem came off exactly the way I wanted it to (though I think I dropped a line). When I went up, Ray and a couple of others were calling out “ONE HUNDRED!” I kept a serious look on my face, and had my eyes downcast. I had to stay in character. If I grinned like I wanted to, it wouldn’t work. I started my piece, “This is my 100th poem performed in competition at Capital Slam” there were some cheers but not too much as I was continuing, “So I think it is time to announce my retirement from Slam Poetry.”
A gasp came across the room. I heard Rock Howell yell out, “No!” I could see the faces of some people, especially Mia Morgan and her crew in the front row. They looked shocked.
I went on.
By the time I got to “I am happy… mostly” they were still looking stunned. Then came the laughter.
It was perfect.
When I got to the final line, I got huge cheers.

It was awesome.

I ended up second as this poem pulled me up quite a bit.


This is the 100th poem
I have performed in competition
At Capital Slam.
And now I think it is time
To announce my retirement
From Slam Poetry.

There comes a time
When you have to move
Up, out and on.
I have realized
When that time is for me.
But I will not leave
With a heavy heart.
It is said that a father
Waits for the day
His child will surpass him
And that a teacher
Excels by the light of
His charges,
And so it is
When every new poet
Finds their voice
And finds our mic
And reinvents the magic
Every year –
Voices fresh like 5 am baking,
Words rise golden and
Ready to be
Consumed – ingested –
Digested to nourish the
Next hungry poet.
So when I hear a
New wordsmith find
New heights and push their
Boundaries so our
Stage is born anew under
A shower of tens,
I am happy…


You see, I’m not
Ready to go out like that.
I DO want to hear
You all give it your best
And climb that mountain
And then I want to get up
And beat you like an egg.
You see, I crave the competition
As much as I love the
Art and craft of
What we do.
There is no better moment
Than hearing a talented poet
Spin webs of words
That elevate and elucidate –
Finding the singular
Power of voice
That is stronger than the
Mightiest oak
And deeper than Barry White
Doing a Darth Vader impersonation.
Nothing makes me feel
More alive than
Listening to the best of the best
And then finding it
Within myself to go up
And whip them like cream
Because I have faith in
My message,
Whatever that may be,
Just as I yearn to
Hear what everyone
Else has to say –
Stripped of artifice,
Dripping with art
As each poem tears
Open my body and dips a
Paintbrush in for a palate
That would make Michelangelo
Weep with envy.
And oh, we weep –
Feeling the pain that seeps
To the surface
As each poet holds
Themselves up as a mirror
Sharing feelings unique to them
Yet universal in
Experience –
Finding that common thread
That binds us tightly.
I want to hear your truth.
I want to feel your truth.
I want to live your truth
By your side,
And then I want to
Mash you like a potato
Because I love and respect
Slam too much to give it
Any less than my all –
And before we start
Wondering why my analogies
All involve violence and food
I’ll have to leave that
For another poem –
And there will BE another poem
And one after that
As long as I can keep writing them.
I told you I am here
To announce my retirement
And I meant what I said
I am scheduling that retirement
For about three minutes
After I’m dead.


Next I have a poem I did for the Caravaggio exhibit on the National Gallery last year.

  1. Tomy says:

    loved it!

  2. Inez Dekker says:

    Very cool! Wish I had been there – you must of taken everyone on a ride doing this one.

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