The Poet Agrees to Let the World-Famous Director Put Her On Stage and Turn Her Poems Into Thee-A-Tuh--A TRUE STORY!

Squirming in his empty seat, the director guffaws at a totally inappropriate moment. Guffawing is with the mouth open, one secret rotting tooth on display, maybe a little bit of spittle. And I am way too hippy and guided for this moment. My hair has been touched. The jiggles of me have been powdered, pushed into place. Two hours of revised lies await. One blaring light leans close enough to whisper “You can call me mama,” and I babble into her wired bosom. I sense the audience leaning forward in their seats—no, leaning forward in their lives.

One moment of expectant and feral, one moment of my throbbing heart in their teeth. When this is over, I imagine, I will drink a clear liquid from a sweating tumbler, a slap with its own nickname. I will need many things that bite and subtract.

Someone coughs, and damn it, if I could dance, I would. I would shuffle and jive and give my eyes the google of rolling marbles. I could make the entire of me teeter on the clichéd edge of a blues lyric. I woke up this morning. I woke up this morning. I woke up this morning, what? I should have named myself after a raucous southern food. I would accidentally reveal my breasts and then make them dance independently of one another. My mistake was in not insisting upon a soundtrack, an unbridled opening number, a flurry of brass and bongos thick enough to be another skin. I should have made my entrance in a toothpick sequined gown lined with gay boys and police sirens. What we will not do for a room full of strangers we will do for a room full of strangers who are sitting in numbered rows. One hour and 57 minutes of revised lies await. Move twice to the left. Place hand on table. Sip from tepid water. Deliver line. In the dark there are tigers. The stagelight opens a huge nurturing mouth, singes my skin. You are disappointing me girl, but I will glimmer your falling. One more restless whisper, and I will begin to grind, I swear it. I will shuck and do a snippet of the nasty dance. The engine of my body wants its moment. It would be over sooner.

This is too lucid, isn’t it? Breathe deep, release. Quick, ten words, free swim. I. Beg. You. Let. Me. Begin. The. End. Of. This. Try again. There are four hard syllables in my first two names. I am a concrete and collard greens child. A machine sucked away the shadow of my first son. Never let anyone edit your life. If you have to, never let them put the beginning before the end.

Originally Published: April 18th, 2010

Patricia Smith has been called “a testament to the power of words to change lives.” She is the author of seven books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (2017), winner of an NAACP Image Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), which won the Lenore Marshall...