Day 2 waking up in Philly. This morning was a little less peaceful. Last night a bit more restless. I could feign ignorance; pretend I don’t know what the shift was or when it occurred but I’m no longer in the business of lying to myself. If anything, the truths I tell myself are frequent, urgent, blinding.
Last night was magic. This is the second time I’ve been in the presence of Nikki Giovanni. The second time I’ve read my work while she was somehow in the room (not yet arrogant enough to believe that she was actually listening) but this is the first time, I read a poem in tribute to her. A thank you for what she gave me which was poetry. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’m sure of this. I lacked the confidence. I lacked the trust. I lacked the ego to think my words and thoughts were important enough to share. So if you think me “bucktoothed” (heh) and arrogant, blame Ms. Giovanni and the permission she gave me to ego-trip.
I had a few words I wanted to say to her but as I stood up there and saw this pixie of a woman and looked across and saw this church filled with people, I froze. I managed a few words before I sensed the tears just at the base of my throat. No way was I going to cry and slobber my way through this poem, so I stopped speaking abruptly and raced my way through the poem. There was a moment when the rhythm of it hit me, stuck behind the podium, I couldn’t do my usual stance. So I found myself tapping some ill-advised beat on the wood surface. Not sure where that came from but there was so much energy trying to attack me at once, I had to do something. Tap or run. So I chose to tap and race through the poem so I could run. Afterward, I heard nothing, ended and hurried off the stage and out of the room. My shoes were too red, too 5 inch stilettos, to peep toe. My dress, too asymetrical, too off the shoulder, to short to risk passing out in a church in front of no less than three (Haki Madhabuti and Sonia Sanchez were there as well) of my writing icons. I ducked into a small room and sat with myself until the nerves stopped. Wishing I had a xanax or a glass of wine or both. All I could manage was an unopened bottle of water. I stared at my reflection in the mirror trying to figure out who this girl was. What did she do that created this life. And how many hail marys of gratitude to prove that she was thankful and humbled by it.
The night was overwhelming. Charged with emotions. Some good. Some not as good. I refuse to share the details. I wasn’t expecting it. And hate myself a little for how the heart leaped and forgot that so much has changed in the last 6 months. So much will never be “fixed” so this heart’s attempt to create comfort where there is none is confusing. Then the night wore on and alone in this hotel room with too many rooms, this bed with too much space, this understanding down the hall and downstairs there was possibly more to make my heart tremble and my knees drop. I needed only to sleep. Only to turn ringer and TV off. Turn computer and ipod off. Turn brain and heart song off. And find the best way to locate sleep.
Love someone and mean it. Even when everything says you shouldn’t. At least you loved. At least you know you meant it.
PS. Still haven’t met her. My nerves and anxiety wouldn’t allow it the twice before. We’re supposed to read together this afternoon. Maybe I’ll have the courage then. Let us pray.