I am not a poet. This is not humility, false or otherwise, nor is it an excuse, but a simple fact. Yet I appreciate poetry, and every now and then I feel compelled to write a poem, though I have no real idea how. Yesterday I went to a gathering of poets at the Denver Woman’s Press Club and listened to several club members and audience members share their lyrical thoughts. Here’s what I took with me when I left:
A Balloon in My Car
Where are the nametags and the tea and the ice?
I don’t know poetry, but I know how to reach and boil and tumble the cubes.
After the reading, a balloon in my car nods in approval.
Women sit in a half-circle around a center where words spin over laps and plates and shoes sensible or high.
Sighs and guffaws escape in arrhythmic, unmetered doses of pleasure.
Afterward, the balloon in my car bobs in satisfied reply.
Writers become the unexpected other as a podium cuts them loose upon leaning-forward torsos.
Peaceful is the space strung between hair dyed or gray, styles spring or black, accents deep red or bright yellow –
Like the balloon in my car, not the one I grabbed too eagerly, nearly sending them all to the ceiling.
A lone man bears handfuls of balloons in our midst, his cloven hooves hidden in gentlemanly shoes.
His memorized rhymes remain hidden until each of our chairs is firmly tied to a birthday party color –
One of which will become the balloon in my car.
The brownies and deviled eggs strain the buttons on my dress.
This is what happens when I choose an old 28-inch waist to circle my new 31-inch reality.
Afterward, in my car, the balloon floats free.
One immigrant poet tells me a government threatened her with AIDS for the words she wrote.
But that only makes her ideas rise higher –
Like the helium that lifts the balloon to press its cheek against the ceiling of my car.
“You never know who you’re sitting next to,” a man once told me.
But I know that a poem can open a pinhole to look inside.
And what I have left to show for it is pictures in my head and a balloon in my car.
“I’m not a poet, I’m an enjoyer,” one woman said.
“I’m not an enjoyer, I’m a poet,” another replied, and figured there was a poem in that.
I don’t know, because I’m not a poet either, just a freelance driver peering around the blind spot caused by the balloon in my car.