6 Nights of Midnight: 2 – Midnight Poetics

There’s a bar underground where all the poets hang.  At midnight, a procession of eight or ten will get on stage and read their latest.  It’s a small stage, but no place for the timid.  If you read something old, they’ll throw coffee mugs until you retreat in a shower of ceramic.  But they applaud magnificence, and even celebrate failed experiments.

They say Poe read “Eldorado” here before it saw print.  They lie just as often as he did.

This is a place for true poets, as well as people with word disorders in their head.  Roger always speaks in iambic pentameter.  Lillian rhymes.  Marisol sits and watches and drinks shot after shot of cheap whiskey, but never saw a word except when she’s on stage.  Harold works on his courage, and scribbles tiny phrases into the margins of his well-used notepads, but never seems to find the strength.

Maybe because, until tonight, no one’s ever challenged him.  “Go on,” the girl says, the girl with kohl in her eyes and honey in her throat.  “I dare you.”  A dare is never just a dare.  It’s a promise.  A covenant, you might say.  An unmistakable invitation.

Harold signs up for his chance to poeticize in front of friends and strangers and wordsmiths and cutthroats and one intoxicating beauty with sapphire dust in her eyes.

Twelve others go before him.  Tammy is chased off stage trying to mix words on her feet.  Maria leaves half a dozen men in tears.  So does Reginald.  As usual, Christopher’s words are brilliant and quickly forgotten.  Tristan falters in a treatise on love.  Andrea opens her heart.

Mikhail recites something utterly incomprehensible, which does not make him clever.  Janice reminds everyone of their last sunset.  Nick cries–with rhythm and cadence.  Martin loses his nerve.  Kevin offends–not in a good way–and leaves the stage with ceramic-induced scratches.  Claire steals everybody’s breath for most of a minute.

“Go on,” the girl says, winking, encouraging.

On stage, the lights don’t blind Harold.  He had hoped not to see.  The bar goes quiet, so that ice cubes clinking against glasses are the only sounds.  He had hoped not to hear.  No nervous whisperings ripple through the patrons.  No fits of laughter or giggling or hiccups.  No one coughs.

Harold starts.

Poetry is useless.
Words cannot describe
that which defies description.
Images cannot be painted
without your eyes.
Love cannot be won
by words you scribble.
Take my hand,
walk with me,
and let’s forget
these silly metrics.

It may not be stellar poetics, but the girl loves it.  Hand in hand, she and Harold abandon the bar, the poets, and words.

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