Over two years ago the Poetry Foundation invited me to participate in their walking poetry tour. Other poets who participated include: A.B. Spellman, Jane Shore, Naomi Ayala, Reuben Jackson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Myra Sklarew, E. Ethelbert Miller, Sarah Browning, Terrence Winch and Linda Pastan. It's narrated by Elizabeth Alexander with photographs by Thomas Sayers Ellis.
I'm not sure what exactly happened and changed in two years time, but the concept that was communicated to me was that one would physically walk around the city and listen to the various readings (on headphones?). Either I totally misunderstood or they tweaked the idea because the tour is available online. I like that it's online.
I read a poem the Poetry Foundation chose from Your Ten Favorite Words and talk briefly about No Tell Motel.
To hear it, click on start and then click RESTON.
Oh wait, Reston isn't on this map. Yes, that's right. I was told I'd be the Dupont Circle poet because that's where we held Lolita & Gilda's Burlesque Poetry Hour. That's my poetic connection to the neighborhood.
But I'm not there. To my surprise I was assigned Adams Morgan. Now, I have to be honest, the only times I've ended up in Adam's Morgan in the past decade were when I made a wrong turn. This perplexed me. I felt like I didn't belong in the tour at all and became concerned I'd be outed as a suburban fraud. There's at least 10 poets living in Adams Morgan, why am I there?
Then I remembered, I DO have a literary connection to Adams Morgan.
Adams Morgan has a lot of bars and clubs that I would occasionally patronize in my early 20's. One night after becoming bored (I find loud bars both difficult and dull, find more excitement in peaceful places where I can think, connect and easily converse), some friends and I decided to try an all-night palm reader who lived above one of the bars. It was after midnight, all of her young children were up watching TV. Immediately I felt uncomfortable.
See, back then I wasn't the blogging mommy poet you know today. In fact, I considered children to be annoying and preferred not to be in their company. Well, I still think they're annoying, but I made peace and grown to appreciate being asked the same question over and over and over and . . . also, I was rather judgmental. I believed things like if a child wasn't potty-trained (oops, first typed "poetry-trained", same thing) by age 2 it was because the parents were incompetent and lazy. I wasn't evolved, enlightened and experienced, like I am now.
BTW, childfree people who go around judging parents, there's these things called karma and comeuppance.
As I waited my turn, I sat in the living room watching TV with the kids. A little boy, about Gideon's age now, came up to me and whispered "I promise not to spit in your ear" and before I could raise my hand to cover my ear, he spit in my ear.
When it was finally my turn, I was livid pissed at the palm reader. Who knows what kind of dark, menacing energy I sent towards her and her son. What kind of mother raises a child who would spit in my ear? Really.
I don't know, what kind of mother raises a 4 year old who thieves evening gloves and protractors from his classroom? Or goes around asking people "Do you want to smell my bum?"
Judge at your own risk!
Anyhow, aside from telling me I'd live into my 80's, she told me that I was clearly a writer and whatever I was doing at that time wasn't going to last for long. My purpose in this life is to write.
That was important because at that point I was about to give up my weirdo poet fantasies and settle into my new life as a cubicle monkey. Her reading made me question my decision to walk away from poetry and my time spent in her apartment kept me off the baby-building track for close to a decade.
And that all happened in Adams Morgan.
I am legitimate.