When I usta drive cab for a living one good part was getting to meet people with jobs I didn’t know anything about. Like lawyer.
One night I gave one a ride, and he was hammered. Someone hadta help him in the door, plop him down flat on the backseat, and tell me where to drop him off.
At first I thought he was just another puke-threat drunk, but in the middle of the ride he suddenly popped up and said, “Hey… I’m an attorney.”
He handed me his card, and it had the scales of justice on it, and his credentials, and contact info.
“If you ever need legal assistance,” he said, “call me.”
“Thanks,” I said, “but I don’t make money.”
“Cuz I appreciate your line of work.”
“I know what you’re thinking… and I am an alcoholic… but only to cope with the stress of my job. I’m always sober in the courtroom. In the courtroom… I’m a wolverine.”
I liked the sound of that and made sure to keep the card.
Not too long later I got pulled over for running a red light even tho I didn’t. It was gonna cost $100. Shit, I thought, poverty and principles are gonna make me hafta fight this thing.
I wanted something ferocious to defend me, so I dug out the lawyer’s card and called the number. I left a message that The Cab Driver needed to get out of a jam.
I heard nothing for a couple days and called again and still heard nothing.
I didn’t know what to do and mentioned the situation to the poets at the open mic that week.
“Ya don’t need a lawyer,” one poet told me.
He was a guy who’d been in his fair share of legal trouble and even prison. He wasn’t bad; it was just that poets can’t easily fit into society.
“Here’s whatcha do,” he said. “Ya go to court, and when they ask ya what happened, look them in the eye and say, ‘I didn’t do it.’”
“That’s all?” I asked.
“Yup. Burdon of proof is on them.”
I took the poet’s legal advice, and he was right. A lawyer, a cop, and a judge all looked at me very suspiciously in the courtroom that day, but none of them could prove I drove thru that red light. And then I owed them $000.
As someone who currently teaches for a living I’m well aware of the threat of a mass shooter. For every location on campus I’ve imagined an escape plan.
In some locations I clearly see a door and run towards it, and I’m so amazed at my speed.
In some locations I’m able to find a perfect hiding place, somewhere very dark, behind something very thick, which is an exact camouflage with my clothes that day.
In some locations I lay on the ground, pretend they’ve already got me, and believe with no hesitation that guardian angels exist.
In other locations I fight back with fists and adrenaline, and I’m a hero who dies.
My favorite location tho is where I stand face-to-face with the shooter, draw a poem, aim it and fire. The poem uses tremendous metaphors and flows with an undeniable rhythm. The syllables sound like music and the imagery is clear. It has just the right amount of ambiguity that one can interpret it however they need. The shooter interprets it as meaning everything will finally be alright now and decides not to shoot me or anyone else with their gun.
Sometimes I’m a poet for a living…
I’ve had bartenders comp me a drink after a good reading.
I can sell a couple chapbooks during the Release Party.
One time I performed in a tutu and a woman was moved enough to stick a $10 bill down the front.
But I don’t expect much more than that.
Recently someone surprisingly paid me $500 for one poem.
He’s a guy who has his own company, digs my work, and wants to live in a world in which poets make money too. I would’ve given him the poem for nothing but didn’t resist the offer.
He cut me a check and the $500 went straight into my bank account and blended with all the other money in there. There was no way to tell which was the poetry money and which was the other.
But I pretended anyway. And for the next $500 spent I imagined those goods and services were exchanged directly for poetry.
stanzas for vending machine peanut M&M’s line breaks for gas rhymes for 24-pack of Charmin Ultra alliteration for barista tip irony for pen (made 100% from recycled plastic bottles) wordplay for sales tax euphony for new Gold Toe dress socks cadence for Audubon stuffed animal birds (with real sound!) emotional courage for Domino’s large pepperoni/pineapple pizza and 20oz Fanta the title for Capital One credit card interest the last line for late fees the linguistic expression of my soul unfolded, smoothed, and fed into change machine for laundry quarters
It felt so fucking good.
And it made poets, poems, and poetry seem really powerful for another brief moment.
– May 2018, Boulder, CO… first appeared in hockspitslurp Magazine (lawyers, guns, and money issue)