Mainly because the instructions are scary.
"Bring us your fresh meat," they say.
What if I was vegan,
how would that make me feel?
I'm not vegan, not even close,
and I don't care what anyone says,
vegan cake tastes awful,
but that's not the point I'm trying to make.
What I mean is,
right away we've gotten off on the wrong foot.
I mean, the rules are very specific.
New work--does that mean if I pull out
crumpled scraps of paper, I'm authentic?
But only old people write on paper
with stubby pencils anymore,
and those scraps of paper are probably old,
with old poems, not like a new poem
written at the bar on your I-phone,
but I don't have one.
And anyhow, what's to keep me
from writing out a poem on crumpled paper,
a poem that has in fact been published,
which I've no doubt performed in a theatrical manner,
which is funny in parts--who would know?
Well, clearly the curators of Assembly Open Mike would,
because THEY CAN SEE RIGHT THRU THAT SHIT,
and would intuit immediately
I'm a god-damn published performance poet
who was probably even a stand-up comedian
in a former life, and I would be publicly shamed--
me, an old guy without an I-phone.
What kind of monsters would kick an old guy
who not only doesn't own but
couldn't figure out to save his life
how to work an I-phone
when he's down?
What has the world of literature come to?
Maybe I'm being a little paranoid...
Because I honestly do have new work to read, a poem entitled
"Random Memories of H.G."--dedicated to Harvey Goldner.
'the Bard of Belltown' according to the P-I,
who passed away 12 years ago tomorrow of tongue cancer,
which is a totally fucked-up thing for a poet to get,
especially one as dedicated to the oral tradition as Harvey.
When I knew him, it was hard to pin down his age.
As my friend Doug put it,
"Somewhere between 50 and Death."
Harvey lived in what must have been the last flophouse in Belltown,
110 Vine St., a crumbling, roach-infested edifice
with piss-drenched communal toilets on each floor.
(I googled the building for a gag the other day--
it's still a roach-ridden pee-hole which, advertised as
'Classic Urban Living', costs $850 a month now.
A young woman who wrote a Yelp review was apparently grateful
for the opportunity to live there amongst all the authentic
Old Seattle Character.)
Back in the day, though, Harvey was able to make his rent
cigarettes and beer nut by working 2 days a week driving cab,
freeing up the rest of his time for writing poems like
LADY BELLTOWN HAS A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE,
IN A SEATTLE FOOD BANK LINE WITH JOHN AND DOROTHY
IN THE ALLEY NEXT TO WINO PARK,
NEW MILLENNIUM BUSINESS, HER BRIGHT BOTTOM, and
THE FUNERAL HOME:THE FUN HOUSE, his ode to
the recently-demolished Bonney-Watson Funeral home;
publishing a cheaply-Xeroxed, crudely hand-designed 'zine
titled "RoarShock" (it's a pun--get it?);
and serving a acknowledged guru
to the youngsters of the poetry scene who gathered
at "Coffee Messiah" in the late-90s, early-aughts
and regarded him as both an Inspiration and a Warning.
One of his disciples, who used to put out
a monthly poetry broadside (SPREAD)
recently revived the project after a 15 year hiatus
and includes a poem by Harvey in every issue as a tribute.
So, like I said, I was going to read a poem about that,
but in reviewing the material, I went
"Holy Crap! There is nothing in Harvey's vernacular
that is going to fly in the poetic landscape of 2019,
and if I told some of these stories
I'd be crucified onstage,"
and then I had a revelation. "Well, of course, you idiot--
he's another OLD guy. There you are again,
trying to sneak an OLD guy into
the NEW literary reading. Shit, it's a good thing
I caught that in time before I came up here
and made a fool of myself!"