For twenty years we gathered here
to listen to each other.
We come to uncage the quetzal birds
of inspiration from our hearts or bathe
in the healing stream of public acceptance.
Like archeologists sifting rubble for spaceships
left from some lost city, we listen
for an original idea or honest emotion
over the blast of the espresso maker.
Ears like radio telescopes I sit combing the spectrum
to pull faint signals from a background of recycled concepts –
propagandists stroking Lenin beards, sermons,
honor student essays written to win approval
from some aunt in Topeka, introductions
disavowing the real feelings to come,
p’s popping like hand grenades
from the microphone, and rhymes
I hear coming all the way from Kuala Lumpur.
Fatigue drops from its perch on the artificial light.
Arms tire of supporting my public face.
It’s bound to slip soon. A poet constructs
a metaphor of sky. It’s a marvelous thing
with clockwork heart and beak of cloud.
Wings aflame it takes flight
careening through the audience
and perches too close to the flammable hair
of one who would take offense