To have crashed and burned?
To have lost it halfway through performing my poem?
To have completely blanked out on what came next and spent five minutes – OK, maybe 30 seconds – trying to get it back?
To have humiliated myself in front of friends and associates?
“How do you feel?” The question was asked me in a very solicitous way by a woman I didn’t know, in a tone that suggested to me that she expected me to feel crappy.
The answer took a while to get clear for me, then came through loud and clear….”It feels thrillingly human.” It feels like a relief. It’s something that I knew had to happen sometime. I have been performing poems at Jubilee four times a year for ten years and I’ve never had a poem not hit a home run. I’ve had little ripples – times when babies cried and it threw me off my game and I would lose a line. But nobody would ever know. I always rallied and took it home.
This time I did rally also and finished strong. And I did once again have people say that it worked for them – and that my stuck place, which in this case was totally obvious to everyone, did not take away from the impact of the poem, that the poem meant a lot to them. One person said that it was her favorite part of the whole show.
So, thrillingly human – someone who can make mistakes. There’s no safer place for me than Jubilee to make mistakes. This poem opened the show for a dance performance – a very sweet movement and story-telling show filled with amateur dancers.
My poem opened for a dance performance on the topic of legacy – and my poem sprang from a friend’s legacy of being abused as a child.. The choreographer and dancers, familiar with my track record as a killer poet and performer, expected me to open the show with a bang. Was it a terrible thing that I fell apart delivering my poem?
What if the worst had happened? What would have been the worst? The worst would have been for me to not recoup – for me just not be able to get it together, and to slink off the stage in shame. That would be the worst. Maybe not the worst though – because even that I could have recovered from. Tonight I feel OK with that. The worst, maybe, would be if that was not OK with me – if my infraction tonight stirred my self-hate – that would be the worst. But even that wouldn’t have been so awful, because it’s human, because I go in and out of it all the time, because I’ve developed more skill in recuperating from self-hate and I bounce back from it.
In truth, what happened was not so awful. In truth, it provided the audience with a wonderful experience – a chance to reach out to a performer, to be pulling for me. Is it not possible that them opening their hearts to me, right at the beginning of the program, gave them a chance to be an even better audience for the rest of the show, to really open themselves to the dancers and the storytelling about their lives and their innocent, heart-felt,amateur dancing? I think that almost certainly this was true..
So the worst happened and it was OK. No, the worst didn’t happen because I was OK with stuff that I surprised myself by accepting. I fell apart in a way that I would have told you in advance was terrible and it was not. In fact, it was perfect.