Tough weekend, for a lot of reasons. Regrouping now.
CONTEXT: February, 2011
This poem has a double context – what was going on in my head and the reasoning behind writing it, and what happened when I shared it.
The roots of this poem go all the way back to 2009, ironically in a similar situation to where I sit right now. I had performed at the Capital Slam Semi-Finals and scored… okay. I had no real designs that year, beyond ‘doing my best’, and I came out of the Semi-Finals tied in 7th, with Brandon Wint. I looked at the list for the finals and understood that the likelihood of making the team were slim… very slim.
Then, independently of my slam prep, I wrote Conspiracy of Shame. I’m not going to get into the whole argument of using personal tragedy for slam scores, because I know that’s not what I did, but regardless it scored well, as did my other poem.
In the end I had pulled up enough to become the team alternate.
Who were the rest of the poets on the team?
Ian Keteku, OpenSecret, Poetic Speed and Brandon Wint.
Do those names ring a bell at all?
Yeah, we went to CFSW in Victoria and my guys absolutely rocked the event. They were so amazing and dominant that my only real question is whether they are the best team EVER. (Tough competition with the first Vancouver team: Shane Koyczan, C.R.Avery, Brendan McLeod and Barbara Adler)
By the time the team had returned to Ottawa Ian had hatched a plan about keeping them together and not letting the team be a one-off thing.
Thus The Recipe was born.
I wasn’t there when they discussed it, as Ruthanne and I stayed in Victoria for an extra week after the festival, but once I was home, Ian gave me a call. We talked about their goals and where I fit in. I was told I was very much welcome to be part of the group, but that they were planning to do it full time.
Ian knew, quite correctly, that I was not ready to be a full time poet. I am in a different life-place than they are. We agreed that I would be part of the group when it worked out but they shouldn’t worry about trying to include me when it didn’t.
Time passed and they got to work. By the time they were getting serious gigs it was February, and they were Black History Month gigs. Needless to say, I didn’t try to get myself in there. We did some other things – a photo shoot – a tour of Southern Ontario which was a GREAT time – a fun feature in Montreal. For the Ontario tour I even joined in on the team action as we ‘wrote me into’ Art Applied Alphabetically.
Then they had a western Canada tour… and I bowed out.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the show in Montreal was the last time I performed with The Recipe – and it was a solo piece that had me more on stage as their guest than a member.
All along I told the guys that this didn’t bother me. They were really starting to take off and I didn’t want to hold them back. I started feeling like a fraud when I mentioned I was part of the group. They had their fit, and I wasn’t part of it.
To make it clear, I love these guys. I am over the moon at how well they have done. They deserve every scrap of accolades they have received.
Finally, I formed a different group with my good friends Danielle Gregoire and Kevin Matthews, called the Copper Conundrum. It is much lower key (though I wish we would perform more, sometimes), and I still have Capital Slam.
But The Recipe…
What finally tipped into this poem?
When they opened for k-Os.
I felt like a sat back and watched my big opportunity slip past and did nothing about it… in fact, I actively messed it up because I was more worried about the time off from work I would have to take then living the life of my dreams.
What a long way I have come, from scribbling my first poem in 2007, that this is even a discussion.
The rest of my feelings are in the poem.
A week ago, the first Recipe member heard the poem. We drove Ikenna (OpenSecret) out to his feature in Carleton Place. I signed up to slam in order to try out a couple of pieces that I was thinking of doing at the CapSlam semi-finals.
As it turned out, he was one of the judges.
He didn’t talk about the poem much, after, other than saying he thought it was good, but two other people told me of his reaction during it.
Then I performed in this past Saturday at the semis, and it did okay. Fifth in the round. All of the Recipe was there. I don’t think I spoke to Brandon, except in passing. Ian didn’t say much but Komi (PoeticSpeed), sought me out and told me it meant something to him…
It is the people that matter, you know?
The Fifth Beatle
What can you do when you
See your dreams slip by you
Just out of reach?
Attempts to grab them
End in wisps of smoke
Trailing off your fingers
Like mercury through a spider-web.
And what if your dreams slip by
And you just stand there?
Fists clenched and jaw set
Like a Hannibal Lector inaction figure
With a straightjacket
Woven out of fear and insecurity.
And what if you don’t recognize them
Until they are past?
Fading in the distance
But the memory remains
Outlined in vivid neon tubing
As unsubtle as New Year’s in Times Square
Or Las Vegas anytime,
Complete with the slipping strains of hope
Giving way to undercurrents of desperation
Arguing which is worse,
Wagering everything on one throw of the dice
Or refusing to step to the line at all.
I’ve been the poster child for ‘giving it a go’.
I am the Uncle Sam pointing outwards
Asking you to find what makes you, you.
But where is the Just Start
For the just missed.
As the mists of time pull tighter
And youth seems wasted
On practicality and level-headedness.
Where were MY wild days,
Living out of a suitcase and
Willing to sing for my supper,
Or at least recite for my repast.
I’ve said that poetry makes me feel young
But sometimes I feel like the tortoise,
Hunkering down and then
Wondering where everyone has run off to.
The greatest dish comes from the greatest Recipe,
But you mix all the ingredients,
Leaving off the final garnish
Only to discover
You never needed it in the first place.
And that’s the hardest blow,
To realize you are unnecessary.
“But I couldn’t possibly!
I’ve got a job, a family, and a show to run!”
Lying that any of this makes the straightjacket
More than my own mental construct
As I kept jabbing the self-destruct button
Over and over
And acting surprised when it does what it says.
And the gold handcuffs are only gold painted
And I lie that I haven’t sold my soul
Because I do poetry on the weekends!
And I have excelled at ensuring I’d be
Exactly what I swore wasn’t me –
Does Pete Best ever turn on Sgt. Pepper’s
And wonder what the hell went wrong?
But some of us weren’t meant to be Beatles.
Those that won’t do, preach
And encourage others to do
What I was to cowardly to do.
But what do you do when you treated
Opportunity knocking like
A door-to-door solicitor
Better ignored then acknowledged.
You took the path MORE taken
But found yourself more lost than ever
And have run out of people to blame.
What do you do
When you watched your dreams pass you by?
You start watching for the next one,
It’s never too late