First, I have to say that I cannot figure out how to format this poem the way it's supposed to be formatted. So it actually looks more interesting on the page. But I decided to go with it the way it is because it's a favorite of mine, so smart and funny. It always makes me laugh--and reminds me of how, when I'd get in a muddle, my husband would say, "Go with your gut reaction," and I'd answer, "Which one!?!" Eventually, he stopped giving me that particular piece of advice.
Anyway. You really should hear Aaren Yeatts Perry read it aloud--or, better yet, recite it. (He knows most of his own poems and about a million others by heart.)
In fact, just to get a little plug in for a friend, if you're ever looking for someone who's guaranteed to make kids love fall in love with poetry--hire him! I remember watching him mesmerize about a hundred hard-core kids jammed in a hot, over-crowded classroom at the end of the school day. One kid, in particular, very bright, but who'd recently been so determinedly self-destructive that he was failing most of his classes, got totally sucked in and not only did the writing exercise Aaren asked them to do, but was the first to raise his hand to read what he'd written. It totally made my day!
Here's the poem, with apologies to Aaren for its incorrect format. You can see the correct version in his book, Open Fire. (Whirlwind Press, Camden NJ, 2004)
I TOOK MYSELF OUT
Aloof and coy, always other lovers, never time to talk, I
was shy about asking. But as soon as I got myself alone
in a room, I invited myself out,
And i accepted!
I’m thinking New York strip steak, I say to myself
And i say, uh, i feel more like a Cajun catfish.
We went to all-you-can-eat and I had rib eye, bloody,
heavy on the A-1, mashed potatoes, double chocolate shake.
but i also ordered a Seitan burger, seaweed, brown rice,
seven-grain bread, tofu butter, and a fruit smoothy.
I insisted on paying but we split the check. Fair enough.
Then I wanted to go out, get drunk, dance.
But i wanted to see a movie, take a walk, talk philosophy.
We had a good chemistry but little in common.
We met halfway and walked to a bar where we
Chatted, watched music videos on big screen TV.
People whispered when we talked, stared when we danced.
i’m just trying to get to know you i say,
Talking too much to myself
And I say, yea, well, I’m just trying to watch…
i kept interrupting.
I told myself to shut up.
But i didn’t
So we got in a big fight.
i threw a drink in my face.
That really pissed me off. So I jabbed myself in the stomach
with a left,
pulled myself to the bar floor with a right,
stuffed pretzels in my face.
I couldn’t tear myself away. I was biting my own ear off/
And i started pulling my hair out
when they dragged us out onto the sidewalk.
I chased myself down the street, hid behind a corner,
Tripped me when I ran past.
that really took me out, i say.
And I say, to hell with you. You’re gonna get us both killed.
no, to hell with you!
Someone stopped to save me from myself.
It’s alright, I say. I can take care of this.
yea, I say, he’s with me.
Oh I am, am I, I say. And turn away
while i stand there giving myself the finger and mumbling
but traffic was so loud i couldn’t hear myself think.
I’d really gotten myself mad, so I caught up with myself, put an
arm around me, helped me back to a park bench, reminded me I
meant something to someone. Look, I say, there’s a ball over
there. How about a little one-on-one?
And i say, uh, i don’t want to embarrass you.
I did have all the moves and the base line drive.
but i had the smoke hanging jumper and the three.
We were about the same height
but i was kicking my ass so bad
I had to take myself out of the game.
Good game, i say. And i patted myself on the ass.
Don’t patronize me.
why take everything so personally, i say.
And i called myself a sore loser.
Hand in hand, steps in sync, we went home to
i had prepared everything: candles, wine, music.
We get to the door and
I’ve locked myself out.
i forgot the keys, i say.
And I say, well, then climb through the window and let us in
fine, i say, but don’t be surprised if i leave you out here.
i was still taking off my coat in the other room
when I saw myself undressing in the bedroom mirror. My hands
went wild. I was all over myself. I came into the bedroom and
asked if I could watch.
No, i said, just lie down and relax.
We sipped two glasses of wine, danced in the
i gave myself a massage,
then we took a bath, got turned on, let the sex steep
up and boil over.
I wanted to do it again.
but i was too tired.
It’s all in your head, I say. And I went on about “being one”
with your body.
but I fell asleep
While I was still talking about us.
Dreams wrapped us so tightly we woke at
Inside, I am held by a mother and father in a way
i never knew i was held and i hold a child
in a way I never knew I could.
I asked and yes, I’d had the same dream
i’d had. i was beside myself.
i gotta go now, i say.
And I say, yea, I gotta leave myself.
but i couldn’t let myself go.
And we couldn’t sleep.
So I took myself out to an all-night diner
stared into my eyes
in a window seat.
Aaren Yeatts Perry
TRY YOUR HAND AT A POEM
Write a poem in which two sides of yourself are in conflict with each other. Don't name or describe the conflict, but let the reader come to his/her own conclusions based on your use of voice and detail. voice and detail.