While I was in Victoria, BC last week, my best dear friend Matthew invited me to an open mic night at Solstice Cafe. He has become quite active in the local slam poetry community and I was eager to see him in action.
I have quite a history with this place. I have attended numerous shows and readings there. I have read poetry there myself on several occasions. My husband launched his poetry chapbook there. We even held our wedding reception there. Most of that rests squarely in the past: I haven't written poetry in years, and don't think of myself as part of that crowd anymore.
But a few hours before the show, Matthew started nagging me, asking me if I was gonna read anything. "Dude, I have nothing" I texted. "Liar" he replied. Back and forth. I felt sure that the young hip slamming poets wouldn't want to hear the rant of a sleep-deprived mom in her mid-thirties. I thought of more and more good reasons why I couldn't read... until I decided to make them into a piece. The following is what I read last week at Solstice Cafe, when I didn't really want to and should've been in bed. Thanks, Matthew, for being persistent. I actually really enjoyed it.
Reasons Why I Can't Read At The Open Mic
Because I am not prepared.
Because I don't have a piece ready to read.
Because reading at open mics hasn't been my thing for years, and I'm afraid you'll notice.
Because I am hungry.
Because 16 months ago a bomb exploded in my life in the shape of a beautiful baby boy.
Because my friends are putting him to bed tonight for the first time.
Because I am crazily, dangerously, sleep deprived.
Because for so much of every day I feel like I'm teetering on the edge of the abyss, and it would only take the merest puff to send me tumbling over the edge.
Because when my son wakes up, again, in the middle of the night I say mean, horrible things to him.
Because the other night, I squeezed him too tight, and shoved him on the bed.
Because I am sorry.
Because I am scared.
Because I have never done anything this hard, and this beautiful.
Because I have gained so much weight I can no longer hide it, not even from myself.
Because I am angry, and sad.
Because so often I feel like a fraud.
Because my husband is such a better writer than I am.
Because I am afraid I'm not that person anymore, that writer person.
Because I am not always sure of who I am.
Because I have a cold.
Because I miss home.
Because I am angry at my mother.
Because I am tired.
Because I am so, so tired.
Because I don't think you want to hear about the neuroses of a new mother.
Because I just don't feel cool anymore.
Because even though I know I know being cool shouldn't be a thing that matters, it still does.
Because I don't belong here anymore.
Because I had my wedding reception here in this space, and I feel I should leave it on that high note.
Because I shouldn't feel like I have anything to prove to you.
Because I feel I have to prove everything.
Because I forgot to put on my fancy earrings.
Because my cool t-shirt is covered in stains.
Because I'm not sure I want to.
So you see, dear people, there are just too good many reasons why I can't read at the open mic. I hope you'll understand, and that you'll forgive me.
Note: I wrote this in the very honest and raw space of a mama who hasn't had a decent night's sleep in a week. Last week was crazy. Feeling much, much better now that we're home and getting some decent shut-eye. Still, it was both illuminating and scary to find out that the dark place of the worst of sleep dep is always only a few bad nights away.