I’ve never been much for telling people that I’m a poet, and I’ve never made an effort to read my poems in front of anyone. I’ve explained the former in my original blog post, and as far as the latter goes, I’ve never thought my poems as the “out loud” sort. Then there is my voice to consider. I cringe every time I hear a recording of it, so I’d be surprised if people didn’t clap hands to their ears by the time I finished the first line.
This past week I was invited to read a few of my poems at a local coffee shop. Immediately, I felt a seed of reluctance germinating in my belly. I wanted no more to read my poems in public than I did to run through the mall naked. I was about to decline when that little voice in the back of my mind told me that I was a coward if I didn’t do it. If I didn’t do it now, I’d never do it, and I might as well stop writing now because apparently my poems weren’t good enough to share.
This past Saturday I stood up in front of twenty people at Bigby Coffee and read four of my poems. I read with a steady voice, and received polite applause after each one. It was a pleasant experience, and I would do it again, however, next time I won’t hold back.
I held back a poem. I brought the following poem because I thought that I could read it as part of the whole Halloween season. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to read it because I was suddenly afraid that my audience wouldn’t like it. No one else was reading anything of the sort. So I held it back, thanked the audience, and sat down, regretting it ever since.
Threshold of Sleep
by Kurt MacPhearson
In the space between your slippers
and that fuzzy patch
the vacuum can’t quite reach
a monster awaits
Claws clicking, stomachs smoldering,
tentacles toying with the corner of the sheet
as your shuffle begins with outstretched arms,
as if to embrace a prodigal dream:
No shield, sword,
nor white-knuckled charm shall protect you
as you pass through the veil
between consciousness and sleep
When stars wink out like nightstand lamps
and the universe unfolds
in non-Euclidean angles
with a membranous stir
The beat is not your heart in ears
but tom-toms on hilltops,
and the frission across your neck
is the fetid breath of a forgotten god
at the threshold of sleep
Originally appeared in Dreams and Nightmares 93