#19

This one is a doozy. It started back in the late 90’s, I don’t remember exactly which year it was. I remember walking by a department’s common area in my high school and there was something playing on the TV (the old kind up on a big tall cart). I think it was PBS playing what might have been the 1998 or 1999 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam. I had only heard of poetry slams secondhand, and it would be another 4 years or so before I would attend one, but the stories were of crazy, passionate readings, where everyone supported each other, and sometimes the winner got something like a roll of toilet paper.

On that screen, in what may have been the finals, I saw a guy not much older than myself pour his heart out in a performance that left me speechless. His name was Tim Arevalo, and the poem he read was “A Poem For Us”. I was just starting to write poetry myself, and his message spoke directly to me, as if he were in the room staring into my eyes while reading. When it was over, I didn’t know what to do: I had to hear it again, read it myself. It was the early days of the internet and he was not a famous poet, just a teenager. It took me quite a while to track down his name and the name of the poem. But finally I found it published in this compilation.

Just looking around for him online today I don’t see much of a footprint. He might have had a couple years of success and then who knows? But this one poem, by one writer, impacted my own journey and maybe someday I will get to tell him how much it meant to me. I hope it may mean something to you, too.

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A Poem For Us

What God was it that plucked us
From heaven’s branches
Sewed us into our mother’s wombs
To sprout
To blossom
To be beautiful for us

What God was it that slid us onto this planet
As slick as we are
With lightning for tongues
and gave us the task of poets

I don’t concern myself with things too much to think of
Its all irrelevant no because

We are nothing less than great
But that’s too much to believe, isn’t it?

Always trying to ease out of these bodies
I too know despondency
Like I know the rolling, shifting
Uneasy feeling of my spirit

I know discontent, as much
As my eyes knows to retreat
Peeling back from the sight of my reflection.

We are nothing less than great
But this truth we dread, waving blazing fists in its face
Clenching doubt in our tender palms
Because we are too afraid to love ourselves
How have we managed to travel so little?
Yet hate ourselves so much?
Ginsberg said he saw the best minds of his generation
Destroyed
I have seen the same

I have seen us in our rooms

Foils and lighters in our hands
Straw in our lips and our noses
Chasing black dragons and snorting white cobras
Because 10 dollars was cheap
For a double hit of joy

I have seen us hunched over toilet bowls
Vomiting self esteem down the drain
Because Vogue and Elle always
dressed beauty in a size 3 and that
was only a heave-ho and upchuck away

I have seen us on the corner
Complacent and numb
Copping doom in dime bags
Because we didn’t know that
The grim reaper wore Filas and a hoodie

I have seen us swigging
golden poison because we
Were fooled and made to believe manhood
Could be sold in 40-ounce bottles

I have seen us spread our legs like the horizon
Because some man tricked us into believing
That love could only be found on our backs

I have seen
us
I have seen
us

And I am not a coward anymore
I see us for what we are;
Nothing less than great,
because we are the poets
The derelict cats who prance on fine lines of chance

the sky rips opens for us, luck lands on our laps
we confuse the wind, dismiss it
& send it off to all directions
we tap-dance on the shoulders of waves
and give height to the tides
we walk and talk mountains
breathe hurricanes, hum earthquakes
and our kisses are wet haikus glistening on crimson pages

we are nothing less than great
more than divine
but ‘great’ and ‘divine’ are still just words.
words still have walls
walls are nothing but limits
but we are limitless beyond articulation

the world is waiting, holding its breath, waiting for us
the poems are waiting, holding their breath, waiting for us
they are waiting for us
to speak our thunder
to claim the mountaintops
to siphon the sun into our pens
and illuminate the page

just take my hand
time is flying away on precious gilded wings
we cannot be cowards anymore
the stakes are too high
the poems are too many

just take my hand
there’s a universe for us to write about
and stars for us to conquer
let’s start right here on this mountaintop
where we are gods and goddesses
who do not know the meaning of defeat
take my hand if you want
and let’s write these poems together.

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