I consider turning down every street
except the one the open mic is actually on.
The most inviting streets are cul de sacs
(easy to turn around on) and one ways
(as long as they’re leading the opposite direction of the stage).
Imagining the audience in their underwear
does not help. I don’t typically yell about big feelings
in small moments in front of people
in their underwear. It will take every stubborn fiber
in me not to escape out the bathroom window
before it is my turn to speak. I’ve climbed through
plenty of windows in the past. I’m always locking myself out
of places I’m supposed to be, while always trying
to deadbolt the doors of what came before;
The past still has its teeth deep in my shoulders;
it is poison ivy coiled around my vocal cords,
a boa constrictor squeezing the life out
of my throat; even my screams are stuttered.
The past is the ghost haunting the attic of my psyche.
The past is a man convincing me my voice
isn’t worth being heard. I turn onto the right street
and force my hands to steady. The past pulls at me
from the back seat, urges me to start the car,
drive away and forget all about this stupid dream
of being a poet, but I step out of the car anyway,
into the future, which is not to say this is a pretty ending;
the future is my armpits staining my shirt in pools
of anxious sweat, imagining the audience
laughing as I stammer towards the microphone.
The future is me being so stage-scared, my tongue tangles
worse than a boxful of Christmas lights; but the future
is knowing that when one light goes out, we all do.
So the future is me with my light on, speaking
scriptless. The future is me
telling the truth.
Alyssa May Trifone has been writing since she was 3 years old. She currently manages a coffee shop, where she gets a lot of inspiration from people watching and over-caffeinating. She lives in Connecticut with her fiancé, dog, two cats, two ferrets, and fourteen pet rats.