All the birds singing
in Paul’s breath
blur the love poems
as he reads
at open mic.

How they got there
has something to do
with swallowing miller moths
attracted to his porch light
at dusk.

At his last checkup
the doctor
placed a tongue depressor
in his mouth
for a better look at his tonsils

and saw
a lesser gold finch
poke its head
up his throat
and sweetly call tee-woo.

Paul notices
all the birds go silent
when he thinks
a sparrow hawk glides
on thermals about his head.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Open Mic Night

You are the cosmic darkness.
You wait to breathe the morning light.
You think you may snack upon it.
You think your exhalations are a zigzag solar wind.
You feel the vibration of big bang resonance nudge your bones.
You think your thinking is a coalescing nebula lightyears wide.
You think a medicine man lassoed your big toe.
You think his rope is constructed from a joke.
You feel sure he spoke in English with Navajo subtext.
You jotted this coded message in your poetry notebook.
You authored a withering iambic pentameter retort.
Your retort failed spectacularly at open mic night.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


I have not attended an open mic in about two years. This poem came from me remembering all the times I thought I wrote a brilliant piece of poetry only to have it bomb at open mic or eliminate me in slam competitions with a score below 5. Fortunately, I realized the fault was my writing and not the audiences’ hearing, although it sometimes took a week or two before my poor writing or large ego issue to become evident to myself. Such is the way with creative humans.

One of the reasons I liked and attended open mic in the day was open mic provided a venue to try out new work. A piece sounds very different when read to others, than when it is read to myself. A lot of errors jump off the page as you read the piece out loud for the first time to others. I do not understand why reading it out loud to others is editorially different than reading the piece out loud to myself, but it is. My guess is reading to others takes the reader outside his/her own brain space to view the poem objectively.

Why did I stop going to open mic? Mostly the answer is I got old. Old enough that I do not enjoy going out at night and the local open mics were all at night. I have become a morning person. Actually, I have always been a morning person.

My entry at the Museum of Four in the Morning (if I had one) would be of a person who naturally wakes at four in the morning—centuries of farmer genes is my guess—instead of a person who is up all night. Link to the 2007 TED talk about the Museum of Four in the Morning.

Love & Light