THERE’S NO POETRY IN BEING POOR

I thought my poverty to be dignified in an artsy sort of way
Chuckling to myself as my car sways on its worn shocks
As the poet José Julián Marti Pérez fancied,

Con los povres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar

With the poor people of the earth
I want to place my luck

I thought my small condo in a bad part of town charming
My slim earnings noble; I can get by
And a rich aunt and friends of means to bail me out when I need
I smiled at the cursing and hollering in the parking lot at 3AM
Until crime, the bastard child of the impoverished,
That afternoon my friend limped and I ran to his pickup truck
To scatter the men—one attaching a battery charger, the other in the cab
The 911 calls, the police reports, the perpetrator cursing
In the middle of the night, rambling around our parking lot
Staring me down as I walked to my own car next afternoon
Blasting hip-hop out the window of the owner giving him safe harbor
I dim my condo lights inside so he won’t know where I live
No.  There’s no poetry in being poor, when you have to be poor,
Live in fear, in 911 calls, in crime, in poverty
My friend shook for three days straight
And I, two weeks later, might practice my keyboards
With a nightstick within reach, and my phone

IT NEVER USED TO BE

Mike noticed me shaking

Playing at an open stage

The way we had in clubs years ago

The legacy of my psychotic episode years ago,

The effects persisting in my involuntary shakes, fear, and incompetence

Brett noticed me shaking

Almost convulsing onstage at the keyboard

It never used to be like that

The ease, the drive I had to perform

Then the caving fear onstage

The lingering apathy that stole

My passion to play hour upon hour at home

Getting better hour upon hour enthralled

Or onstage before crowds

Eager, excited, up

Darryl tried to jam with me last spring

Remembering my former ability

Thinking me as capable as it used to be

It was sad, the attempt, his generosity

One player quenched by bipolar disorder

Likely doesn’t mean much

But it does to me